The concept of hinterland is impacted by geopolitical considerations, particularly when it involves national boundaries. In terms of access to maritime trade, this leads to three characteristics:
- Coastal. A country able to service a significant share of its maritime trade through its own ports has a coastal hinterland. The majority of its hinterland traffic remains within its own national jurisdiction and is directly connected to the global shipping network without having to transit through an intermediary jurisdiction.
- Landlocked. A country that does not have direct access to ports for its maritime trade, implying that its trade must use a port in a third country through a land connection (road, rail, fluvial). It has indirect connectivity to the global shipping network.
- Relatively landlocked. A country that sees a share of its maritime trade transits through a third country even if it has direct maritime access. The landlocked character is thus relative to technical or market conditions. The main reason could be that there is not enough port capacity available or facilities unable to handle a specific type of traffic. Traders could also elect to use the facilities of a third country because of proximity, capacity, quality, or cost considerations.
While the coastal and landlocked characteristics of a country are stable (if not permanent), the relatively landlocked status varies according to the trade partners involved and the development of transport infrastructure.