Most nations around the world get to experience the beauty of the sea and its coastline. The United States, for example, touches three oceans: the Atlantic, Pacific and (thanks to Alaska) the Arctic. Italy is surrounded by the Adriatic, Ionian, and Tyrrhenian seas (all part of the Mediterranean Sea), Madagascar lies fully in the Indian Ocean, and so on.
However, some countries are landlocked, meaning they are completely surrounded by land. Although landlocked countries still contain bodies of freshwater, such as lakes and rivers, they lack direct access to a sea or ocean. The U.S. also has several landlocked states. Finally, two of the world's countries are double landlocked, meaning not only are they landlocked, but the countries that surround them are also landlocked.
The first double-landlocked country is the European microstate Liechtenstein, which is surrounded by the landlocked countries of Austria and Switzerland. One of the world's smallest countries, Liechtenstein is also the smallest country to border at least two other countries (most microstates exist entirely inside another country. For instance, San Marino and Vatican City are both entirely surrounded by Italy). Although no longer considered a tax haven country, Liechtenstein is nonetheless one of the richest countries in the world and a proud member of the United Nations and the Schengen Agreement.
The world's second double-landlocked country is the former USSR country Uzbekistan, which is located in Central Asia and surrounded by five additional landlocked nations (all -Stan countries: Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. Although Uzbekistan is among the poorest countries in Europe, it has strong cotton, electricity, and mining industries and could soon possess one of the world's fastest growing economies if it can manage its limited water and tamp down on government corruption.
Is Uzbekistan doubly landlocked or just singly landlocked?
Uzbekistan's status as a double-landlocked country is disputed by some geographers because two of the countries that border it—Iran and Turkmenistan—also touch the Caspian Sea. Despite its name, most experts consider the Caspian Sea a massive lake rather than a sea. It doesn't drain into a larger body of water and its brackish water is only one-third as salty as most oceans and seas. This gives the Caspian more in common with the Great Lakes of the United States than with the neighboring Black Sea, whose much saltier water drains into the Mediterranean.
If the Caspian remains classified as a lake, Uzbekistan will remain double-landlocked. However, if the Caspian is ever reclassified as a true sea based upon its immense size and slight salinity, Iran and Turkmenistan will no longer be considered landlocked and Uzbekistan will revert from double-landlocked to simply landlocked.
The impact of being a landlocked country
Being landlocked has a significant impact on a country's shipping industry. In countries that lack direct access to a sea or ocean, businesses must typically resort to shipping their product by rail, road, or air rather than over the water. This can add cost and make it difficult for businesses to remain competitive in the global marketplace. Further, these difficulties can reverberate through a country's entire economy, dragging down the overall quality of life.