Although sighted by Christopher COLUMBUS in 1493 and claimed for Spain, it was the Dutch who occupied the island in 1631 and began exploiting its salt deposits. The Spanish retook the island in 1633, but continued to be harassed by the Dutch. The Spanish finally relinquished the island of Saint Martin to the French and Dutch, who divided it amongst themselves in 1648. The establishment of cotton, tobacco, and sugar plantations dramatically expanded African slavery on the island in the 18th and 19th centuries; the practice was not abolished in the Dutch half until 1863. The island's economy declined until 1939 when it became a free port; the tourism industry was dramatically expanded beginning in the 1950s. In 1954, Sint Maarten and several other Dutch Caribbean possessions became part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands as the Netherlands Antilles. In a 2000 referendum, the citizens of Sint Maarten voted to become a self-governing country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The change in status became effective in October of 2010 with the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles.



Caribbean, located in the Leeward Islands (northern) group; Dutch part of the island of Saint Martin in the Caribbean Sea; Sint Maarten lies east of the US Virgin Islands

Geographic coordinates

18 4 N, 63 4 W

Map references

Central America and the Caribbean


total: 34 sq km
land: 34 sq km
water: 0 sq km
note: Dutch part of the island of Saint Martin

Area - comparative

one-fifth the size of Washington, DC

Land boundaries

total: 16 km
border countries (1): Saint Martin (France) 16 km


58.9 km (for entire island)

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive fishing zone: 12 nm


tropical marine climate, ameliorated by northeast trade winds, results in moderate temperatures; average rainfall of 150 cm/year; hurricane season stretches from July to November


low, hilly terrain, volcanic origin


mean elevation: NA
elevation extremes: lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
highest point: Mount Flagstaff 386 m

Natural resources

fish, salt

Natural hazards

subject to hurricanes from July to November

Environment - current issues


Geography - note

the northern border is shared with the French overseas collectivity of Saint Martin; together, these two entities make up the smallest landmass in the world shared by two self-governing states

People and Society


41,486 (July 2016 est.)


English (official) 67.5%, Spanish 12.9%, Creole 8.2%, Dutch (official) 4.2%, Papiamento (a Spanish-Portuguese-Dutch-English dialect) 2.2%, French 1.5%, other 3.5% (2001 census)


Protestant 41.9% (Pentecostal 14.7%, Methodist 10.0%, Seventh Day Adventist 6.6%, Baptist 4.7%, Anglican 3.1%, other Protestant 2.8%), Roman Catholic 33.1%, Hindu 5.2%, Christian 4.1%, Jehovah's Witness 1.7%, Evangelical 1.4%, Muslim/Jewish 1.1%, other 1.3% (includes Buddhist, Sikh, Rastafarian), none 7.9%, no response 2.4% (2011 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 18.45% (male 4,000/female 3,655)
15-24 years: 15.26% (male 3,127/female 3,204)
25-54 years: 42.6% (male 8,628/female 9,045)
55-64 years: 15.37% (male 3,057/female 3,319)
65 years and over: 8.32% (male 1,667/female 1,784) (2016 est.)

Median age

total: 40.7 years
male: 39.8 years
female: 41.7 years (2016 est.)

Population growth rate

1.44% (2016 est.)

Birth rate

13.1 births/1,000 population (2016 est.)

Death rate

5 deaths/1,000 population (2016 est.)

Net migration rate

6.3 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2016 est.)

Population distribution

most populous areas are Lower Prince's Quarter (north of Philipsburg), followed closely by Cul de Sac


urban population: 100% of total population (2015)
rate of urbanization: 1.97% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Major urban areas - population

PHILIPSBURG (capital) 1,327 (2011)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
0-14 years: 1.09 male(s)/female
15-24 years: 0.98 male(s)/female
25-54 years: 0.95 male(s)/female
55-64 years: 0.92 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.92 male(s)/female
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2016 est.)

Infant mortality rate

total: 8.3 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 9.1 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 7.6 deaths/1,000 live births (2016 est.)

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 78.1 years
male: 75.8 years
female: 80.6 years (2016 est.)

Total fertility rate

2.06 children born/woman (2016 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate


HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS


HIV/AIDS - deaths


Major infectious diseases

note: active local transmission of Zika virus by Aedes species mosquitoes has been identified in this country (as of August 2016); it poses an important risk (a large number of cases possible) among US citizens if bitten by an infective mosquito; other less common ways to get Zika are through sex, via blood transfusion, or during pregnancy, in which the pregnant woman passes Zika virus to her fetus (2016)


Country name

Dutch long form: Land Sint Maarten
Dutch short form: Sint Maarten
English long form: Country of Sint Maarten
English short form: Sint Maarten
former: Netherlands Antilles; Curacao and Dependencies
etymology: explorer Christopher COLUMBUS named the island after Saint MARTIN of Tours because the 11 November 1493 day of discovery was the saint's feast day

Dependency status

constituent country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands; full autonomy in internal affairs granted in 2010; Dutch Government responsible for defense and foreign affairs

Government type


name: Philipsburg
geographic coordinates: 18 1 N, 63 2 W
time difference: UTC-4 (1 hour ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

Administrative divisions

none (part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands)
note: Sint Maarten is one of four constituent parts (countries) of the Kingdom of the Netherlands; the other three parts are the Netherlands, Aruba, and Curacao


none (part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands)

National holiday

King's Day (birthday of King WILLEM-ALEXANDER), 27 April (1967)


Staatsregeling, 10 October 2010; revised Kingdom Charter pending previous 1947, 1955; latest adopted 21 July 2010, entered into force 10 October 2010 (regulates governance of Sint Maarten but is subordinate to the Charter for the Kingdom of the Netherlands); note - in October 2010, with the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles, Sint Maarten became a constituent country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands

Legal system

based on Dutch civil law system with some English common law influence


see the Netherlands


18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: Queen BEATRIX of the Netherlands (since 30 April 1980); represented by Governor General Eugene HOLIDAY (since 10 October 2010)
head of government: Prime Minister William MARLIN (since 19 November 2015)
cabinet: Cabinet nominated by the prime minister and appointed by the governor-general
elections/appointments: the monarch is hereditary; governor general appointed by the monarch for a 6-year term; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party is usually elected prime minister by the legislature

Legislative branch

description: unicameral Estates of Sint Maarten or Staten (15 seats; members directly elected by proportional representation vote to serve 4-year terms)
elections: last held 26 September 2016 (next to be held in 2020)
election results: percent of vote by party - UPP 28.5%, National Alliance 26.1%, US Party 19.3%, Democratic Party 12.5%; seats by party - National Alliance 5, UPP 5, US Party 3, Democratic Party 2

Judicial branch

highest court(s): Joint Court of Justice of Aruba, Curacao, Sint Maarten, and of Bonaire, Sint Eustatitus, and Saba or "Joint Court of Justice" (consists of the presiding judge, other members, and their substitutes); final appeals heard by the Supreme Court, in The Hague, Netherlands; note - prior to 2010, the Joint Court of Justice was the Common Court of Justice of the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba
judge selection and term of office: Joint Court judges appointed by the monarch for life
subordinate courts: Courts in First Instance

Political parties and leaders

Concordia Political Alliance or CPA [Jeffery RICHARDSON]
Democratic Party or DP [Sarah WESCOTT-WILLIAMS]
National Alliance or NA [William MARLIN]
United People's Party or UPP [Theodore HEYLIGER]
United Sint Maarten Party or US Party [Frans RICHARDSON]

Diplomatic representation in the US

none (represented by the Kingdom of the Netherlands)

Diplomatic representation from the US

the US does not have an embassy in Sint Maarten; the Consul General to Curacao is accredited to Sint Maarten

Flag description

two equal horizontal bands of red (top) and blue with a white isosceles triangle based on the hoist side; the center of the triangle displays the Sint Maarten coat of arms; the arms consist of an orange-bordered blue shield prominently displaying the white court house in Philipsburg, as well as a bouquet of yellow sage (the national flower) in the upper left, and the silhouette of a Dutch-French friendship monument in the upper right; the shield is surmounted by a yellow rising sun in front of which is a brown pelican in flight; a yellow scroll below the shield bears the motto: SEMPER PROGREDIENS (Always Progressing); the three main colors are identical to those on the Dutch flag
note: the flag somewhat resembles that of the Philippines, but with the main red and blue bands reversed; the banner more closely evokes the wartime Philippine flag

National symbol(s)

brown pelican, yellow sage (flower); national colors: red, white, blue

National anthem

name: "O Sweet Saint Martin's Land"
lyrics/music: Gerard KEMPS
note: the song, written in 1958, is used as an unofficial anthem for the entire island (both French and Dutch sides); as a collectivity of France, in addition to the local anthem, "La Marseillaise" is official on the French side (see France); as a constituent part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, in addition to the local anthem, "Het Wilhelmus" is official on the Dutch side (see Netherlands)


Economy - overview

The economy of Sint Maarten centers around tourism with nearly four-fifths of the labor force engaged in this sector. Nearly 1.8 million visitors came to the island by cruise ship and roughly 500,000 visitors arrived through Princess Juliana International

GDP (purchasing power parity)

$365.8 million (2014 est.)
$353.5 million (2013 est.)
$339.6 million (2012 est.)
note: datar are in 2014 US dollars

GDP (official exchange rate)

$304.1 billion (2014 est.)

GDP - real growth rate

3.6% (2014 est.)
4.1% (2013 est.)
1.9% (2012 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP)

$66,800 (2014 est.)
$65,500 (2013 est.)
$63,900 (2012 est.)
note: data are in 2015 US dollars

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 0.4%
industry: 18.3%
services: 81.3% (2008 est.)

Agriculture - products



tourism, light industry

Labor force

23,200 (2008 est.)

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 1.1%
industry: 15.2%
services: 83.7% (2008 est.)

Unemployment rate

12% (2012 est.)
10.6% (2008 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

4% (2012 est.)
0.7% (2009 est.)

Exports - commodities


Exchange rates

Netherlands Antillean guilders (ANG) per US dollar -
1.79 (2014 est.)
1.79 (2013)
1.79 (2012)
1.79 (2011)


Electricity - production

304.3 million kWh (2008 est.)


Telephone system

general assessment: generally adequate facilities
domestic: extensive interisland microwave radio relay links
international: country code - 1-721; the Americas Region Caribbean Ring System (ARCOS-1) and the Americas-2 submarine cable systems provide connectivity to Central America, parts of South America and the Caribbean, and the US; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Atla (2010)

Internet country code

.sx; note - IANA has designated .sx for Sint Maarten, but has not yet assigned it to a sponsoring organization



1 (2013)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2012)


total: 53 km

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Philipsburg
oil terminals: Coles Bay oil terminal


Military branches

no regular military forces (2012)

Military - note

defense is the responsibility of the Kingdom of the Netherlands

Transnational Issues