Short sea shipping transports cargoes and passengers within regions either in international or national waters. Feeder services carry an important part of the cargoes transported in short haul routes. They move cargoes landed in the major ports by deep-sea vessels coming from overseas. In Europe, shipping moves nearly 40 per cent of EU internal cargo transport and carries a big share of the 400 million passengers passing through European ports each year. Hence short sea shipping is an important part of the shipping industry. Europe (2010)
Short sea shipping faces particular political restrictions. Operating short sea routes imply that the vessels for a large part of the time operates within different nations economic or territorial zones were national restrictions may influence their operations. Cabotage or transport between national ports may be open only to national vessels. Restrictions on cabotage were reduced especially as EU opened up its coastal waters in 1999, except for Greece where limitations were extended to 2004. Internal EU trades now should be open to all vessels flying EU flags. (Europe, 2007)
).   Brazil and USA still protect their coastal traffic by restricting access to these trades for foreign flag vessels.


Since the cargo hauls are short in coastal shipping, vessels spend more of their time in port. Augmenting port efficiency thus is central to short sea shipping. Vessels size is the basis when calculating port tariffs . This implies that rules for measuring vessel size become especially important in short sea shipping.

Another important difference; trading in coastal areas or within regions vessels in coastal and short sea trades operate within reach of rescue helicopters and boats more of the time at sea.