Abstract The main difficulties of trace metals analysis in estuarine and seawater stem from their very low concentration (μg/l to sub-μg/l), and, by contrast, the high salt content (up to 38 g/l in the Mediterranean Sea). ICP-MS allows multi-elemental analysis and offers great sensitivity, but may be strongly affected by matrix effects induced by high salt contents (> 1 g/l). To perform trace metals analysis both in riverine, estuarine and seawater, we have developed a hyphenated method: ion chelation chromatography coupled on-line with ICP-MS. Iminodiacetate resin, Metpac CC-1 (Dionex), was used to concentrate most of the trace metals, and to separate them from alkaline and alkaline-earth metals. Behaviour of 17 elements (Pb, Cu, Cd, Ni, U, Cr, Mn, Al, Co, Ga, In, Zn, V, Tl, Bi, Ag and Sn) towards the resin was qualitatively investigated. A method validation, partly derived from AFNOR standard XPT 90-210, was carried out on 12 elements (Pb, Cu, Cd, Ni, U, Cr, Mn, Al, Co, Ga, Bi and In). Replicate measurements of multi-elemental standard solutions were used to check linearity, and to determine repeatability and detection limits. Method accuracy was then assessed by analysing two certified materials: a synthetic freshwater (SRM 1643d), and a natural filtered coastal seawater (NRCC CASS-3). An application assay of natural samples from the Rhône river (France) was eventually carried out, and the analytical results were found to be consistent with previous works.