Inadequate transport systems for isolated islands

Other Names:
Inaccessible islands
Lack of shipping services for remote island states
Limited cross-island access

Remoteness is one of the roots of the specific problems of island developing countries, which are not found in the same form in small continental States. Most island developing countries are more than 500 kilometres from the nearest continent. Furthermore, there are over 36 which are archipelagic, made up of a number of islands which may be a long way from one another. Remoteness, however, is more than a question of distance in kilometres. It is more a function of the frequency, reliability, and convenience of transport and communications links. This in turn depends on the size of the market - the number of people or the amount of freight offering at a particular point - and on the transport and communication technologies available. Distances to be travelled within some archipelagic countries may represent an even greater remoteness in terms of travel time than that between the capital and neighbouring countries.

There is insufficient research into the development of appropriate types of vessel and aircraft for inter-island and feeder transport services: the transport development costs may be beyond the means of many island communities, but so may be the fixed infrastructure the transport services require. These internal transportation problems are aggravated by the fact that external transport services available to island countries continue to deteriorate, since technical progress in aviation and shipping is biased against small communities where the unit costs of operations tend to be correspondingly higher. Inadequate internal and external transport services are obstacles to island development, affecting tourism, conversion and production, exports, international political and diplomatic action, and scientific, technical and cultural interchange.


In the South Pacific Ocean there are numerous isolated islands and island groups. The UK has several protectorates in the Atlantic Ocean which are even more isolated. The extreme geographical isolation of some islands makes it difficult for them to benefit from economic and social developments in which they would otherwise participate. The EEC/EU has around 400 inhabited islands for which transport costs are 30 to 40%, in some cases as much as 200%, higher than on the mainland.

Narrower Problems:
Long shipping distances
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 1: No PovertyGOAL 10: Reduced InequalityGOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and CommunitiesGOAL 15: Life on LandGOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
Problem Type:
D: Detailed problems
Date of last update
04.10.2020 – 22:48 CEST