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A port is a maritime facility comprising one or more wharves or loading areas, where ships load and discharge
cargo Cargo consists of bulk goods conveyed by water, air, or land. In economics, freight is cargo that is transported at a freight rate for Commerce, commercial gain. ''Cargo'' was originally a shipload but now covers all types of freight, includ ...
and passengers. Although usually situated on a sea coast or estuary, ports can also be found far inland, such as Hamburg,
Manchester Manchester () is a city in Greater Manchester, England. It had a population of 552,000 in 2021. It is bordered by the Cheshire Plain to the south, the Pennines to the north and east, and the neighbouring city of City of Salford, Salford to ...
and Duluth; these access the sea via
river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In some cases, a river flows into the ground and becomes dry at the end of its course without reaching another body of wate ...
s or
canal Canals or artificial waterways are waterways or engineered channels built for drainage management (e.g. flood control and irrigation) or for conveyancing water transport vehicles (e.g. water taxi). They carry free, calm surface flo ...
s. Because of their roles as ports of entry for immigrants as well as soldiers in wartime, many port cities have experienced dramatic multi-ethnic and multicultural changes throughout their histories. Ports are extremely important to the global economy; 70% of global merchandise trade by value passes through a port. For this reason, ports are also often densely populated settlements that provide the labor for processing and handling goods and related services for the ports. Today by far the greatest growth in port development is in Asia, the continent with some of the world's largest and busiest ports, such as
Singapore Singapore (), officially the Republic of Singapore, is a sovereign island country, island country and city-state in maritime Southeast Asia. It lies about one degree of latitude () north of the equator, off the southern tip of the Malay Pen ...
and the Chinese ports of
Shanghai Shanghai (; , , Standard Mandarin pronunciation: ) is one of the four direct-administered municipalities of the People's Republic of China (PRC). The city is located on the southern estuary of the Yangtze River, with the Huangpu River flow ...
and Ningbo-Zhoushan. As of 2020, the busiest passenger port in Europe is the Port of Helsinki in
Finland Finland ( fi, Suomi ; sv, Finland ), officially the Republic of Finland (; ), is a Nordic country in Northern Europe. It shares land borders with Sweden to the northwest, Norway to the north, and Russia Russia (, , ), or the Ru ...
. Nevertheless, countless smaller ports do exist that may only serve their local tourism or fishing industries. Ports can have a wide environmental impact on local ecologies and waterways, most importantly water quality, which can be caused by dredging, spills and other pollution. Ports are heavily affected by changing environmental factors caused by
climate change In common usage, climate change describes global warming—the ongoing increase in global average temperature—and its effects on Earth's climate system. Climate variability and change, Climate change in a broader sense also includes ...
as most port infrastructure is extremely vulnerable to
sea level rise Globally, Sea level, sea levels are rising due to human-caused climate change. Between 1901 and 2018, the globally averaged sea level rose by , or 1–2 mm per year on average.IPCC, 2019Summary for Policymakers InIPCC Special Report on the Oce ...
and
coastal flooding Coastal flooding normally occurs when dry and low-lying land is submerged by seawater. The range of a coastal flooding is a result of the elevation of floodwater that penetrates the inland which is controlled by the topography of the coastal l ...
. Internationally, global ports are beginning to identify ways to improve coastal management practices and integrate climate change adaptation practices into their construction.


Historical ports

Wherever ancient civilisations engaged in maritime trade, they tended to develop sea ports. One of the world's oldest known artificial harbors is at Wadi al-Jarf on the Red Sea. Along with the finding of harbor structures, ancient anchors have also been found. Other ancient ports include
Guangzhou Guangzhou (, ; ; or ; ), also known as Canton () and alternatively romanized as Kwongchow or Kwangchow, is the capital and largest city of Guangdong province in southern China. Located on the Pearl River about north-northwest of Hong K ...
during
Qin Dynasty The Qin dynasty ( ; zh, c=秦朝, p=Qín cháo, w=), or Ch'in dynasty in Wade–Giles romanization ( zh, c=, p=, w=Ch'in ch'ao), was the first dynasty of Imperial China. Named for its heartland in Qin state (modern Gansu Gansu (, ; ...
China and
Canopus Canopus is the brightest star in the southern constellation A constellation is an area on the celestial sphere in which a group of visible stars forms a perceived pattern or outline, typically representing an animal, mythologica ...
, the principal Egyptian port for Greek trade before the foundation of
Alexandria Alexandria ( or ; ar, ٱلْإِسْكَنْدَرِيَّةُ ; grc-gre, Αλεξάνδρεια, Alexándria) is the second largest city in Egypt, and the largest city on the Mediterranean coast. Founded in by Alexander the Great, Alexandria ...
. In ancient Greece, Athens' port of Piraeus was the base for the Athenian fleet which played a crucial role in the Battle of Salamis against the Persians in 480 BCE. In ancient India from 3700 BCE, Lothal was a prominent city of the Indus valley civilisation, located in the Bhal region of the modern state of Gujarāt. Ostia Antica was the port of ancient Rome with Portus established by Claudius and enlarged by
Trajan Trajan ( ; la, Caesar Nerva Traianus; 18 September 539/11 August 117) was Roman emperor from 98 to 117. Officially declared ''optimus princeps'' ("best ruler") by the Roman Senate, senate, Trajan is remembered as a successful soldier-emper ...
to supplement the nearby port of Ostia. In Japan, during the Edo period, the island of Dejima was the only port open for trade with Europe and received only a single Dutch ship per year, whereas Osaka was the largest domestic port and the main trade hub for rice. Post-classical Swahili kingdoms are known to have had trade port islands and trade routes with the Islamic world and Asia. They were described by Greek historians as "metropolises". Famous African trade ports such as Mombasa,
Zanzibar Zanzibar (; ; ) is an insular Autonomous administrative division, semi-autonomous province which united with Tanganyika (1961–1964), Tanganyika in 1964 to form the United Republic of Tanzania. It is an Zanzibar Archipelago, archipelago in t ...
,
Mogadishu Mogadishu (, also ; so, Muqdisho or ; ar, مقديشو ; it, Mogadiscio ), locally known as Xamar or Hamar, is the capital and List of cities in Somalia by population, most populous city of Somalia. The city has served as an important port ...
and Kilwa were known to Chinese sailors such as Zheng He and medieval Islamic historians such as the Berber Islamic voyager Abu Abdullah ibn Battuta. Many of these ancient sites no longer exist or function as modern ports. Even in more recent times, ports sometimes fall out of use.
Rye, East Sussex Rye is a small town and civil parish in the Rother District, Rother district of East Sussex, England, two miles from the sea at the confluence of three rivers: the River Rother (Eastern), Rother, the River Tillingham, Tillingham and the River Br ...
, was an important English port in the Middle Ages, but the coastline changed and it is now from the sea, while the ports of Ravenspurn and Dunwich have been lost to
coastal erosion Coastal erosion is the loss or displacement of land, or the long-term removal of sediment and rocks along the coastline due to the action of Wind wave, waves, Ocean current, currents, tides, wind-driven water, waterborne ice, or other impact ...
.


Modern ports

Whereas early ports tended to be just simple harbours, modern ports tend to be multimodal distribution hubs, with transport links using sea, river, canal, road, rail and air routes. Successful ports are located to optimize access to an active
hinterland Hinterland is a German word meaning "the land behind" (a city, a port, or similar). Its use in English was first documented by the geographer George Chisholm (geographer), George Chisholm in his ''Handbook of Commercial Geography'' (1888). Origin ...
, such as the London Gateway. Ideally, a port will grant easy navigation to ships, and will give shelter from wind and waves. Ports are often on estuaries, where the water may be shallow and may need regular dredging. Deep water ports such as Milford Haven are less common, but can handle larger ships with a greater draft, such as super tankers, Post-Panamax vessels and large container ships. Other businesses such as regional distribution centres, warehouses and freight-forwarders, canneries and other processing facilities find it advantageous to be located within a port or nearby. Modern ports will have specialised
cargo Cargo consists of bulk goods conveyed by water, air, or land. In economics, freight is cargo that is transported at a freight rate for Commerce, commercial gain. ''Cargo'' was originally a shipload but now covers all types of freight, includ ...
-handling equipment, such as gantry cranes,
reach stacker A reach stacker is a vehicle used for handling intermodal containers, intermodal cargo containers in small terminals or medium-sized ports. Reach stackers are able to transport a container short distances very quickly and pile them in various rows ...
s and forklift trucks. Ports usually have specialised functions: some tend to cater mainly for passenger ferries and cruise ships; some specialise in container traffic or general cargo; and some ports play an important military role for their nation's navy. Some third world countries and small islands such as Ascension and St Helena still have limited port facilities, so that ships must anchor off while their cargo and passengers are taken ashore by
barge Barge nowadays generally refers to a flat-bottomed boat, flat-bottomed inland waterway vessel which does not have its own means of mechanical propulsion. The first modern barges were pulled by tugs, but nowadays most are pushed by Pusher (boat) ...
or launch (respectively). In modern times, ports survive or decline, depending on current economic trends. In the UK, both the ports of
Liverpool Liverpool is a City status in the United Kingdom, city and metropolitan borough in Merseyside, England. With a population of in 2019, it is the List of English districts by population, 10th largest English district by population and its E ...
and Southampton were once significant in the transatlantic passenger liner business. Once airliner traffic decimated that trade, both ports diversified to container cargo and cruise ships. Up until the 1950s the Port of London was a major international port on the
River Thames The River Thames ( ), known alternatively in parts as the River Isis, is a river that flows through southern England including London London is the capital and List of urban areas in the United Kingdom, largest city of England and th ...
, but changes in shipping and the use of containers and larger ships have led to its decline. Thamesport, a small semi-automated container port (with links to the
Port of Felixstowe The Port of Felixstowe, in Felixstowe, Suffolk, is the United Kingdom's busiest containerization, container port, dealing with 48% of Britain's containerised trade. In 2017, it was ranked as 43rd List of busiest container ports, busiest contain ...
, the UK's largest container port) thrived for some years, but has been hit hard by competition from the emergent London Gateway port and logistics hub. In mainland Europe, it is normal for ports to be publicly owned, so that, for instance, the ports of
Rotterdam Rotterdam ( , , , lit. ''The Dam on the River Rotte'') is the second largest city A city is a human settlement of notable size.Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: Penguin.Kuper, A. and Kuper, J., ed ...
and
Amsterdam Amsterdam ( , , , lit. ''The Dam on the River Amstel'') is the Capital of the Netherlands, capital and Municipalities of the Netherlands, most populous city of the Netherlands, with The Hague being the seat of government. It has a population ...
are owned partly by the state and partly by the cities themselves. Even though modern ships tend to have bow-thrusters and stern-thrusters, many port authorities still require vessels to use pilots and tugboats for manoeuvering large ships in tight quarters. For instance, ships approaching the Belgian port of Antwerp, an inland port on the River Scheldt, are obliged to use Dutch pilots when navigating on that part of the estuary that belongs to the Netherlands. Ports with international traffic have customs facilities.


Types

The terms "port" and "seaport" are used for different types of facilities handling ocean-going vessels, and river port is used for river traffic, such as
barge Barge nowadays generally refers to a flat-bottomed boat, flat-bottomed inland waterway vessel which does not have its own means of mechanical propulsion. The first modern barges were pulled by tugs, but nowadays most are pushed by Pusher (boat) ...
s and other shallow-draft vessels.


Seaport

A seaport is a port located on the shore of a sea or ocean. It is further categorized as a "cruise port" or a "cargo port". Additionally, "cruise ports" are also known as a "home port" or a "port of call". The "cargo port" is also further categorized into a "bulk" or "break bulk port" or as a "container port".


Cargo port

Cargo ports are quite different from cruise ports, because each handles very different cargo, which has to be loaded and unloaded by a variety of mechanical means. Bulk cargo ports may handle one particular type of cargo or numerous cargoes, such as grains, liquid fuels, liquid chemicals, wood, automobiles, etc. Such ports are known as the "bulk" or "break bulk ports". Ports that handle containerized cargo are known as container ports. Most cargo ports handle all sorts of cargo, but some ports are very specific as to what cargo they handle. Additionally, individual cargo ports may be divided into different operating terminals which handle the different types of cargoes, and may be operated by different companies, also known as terminal operators, or
stevedore A stevedore (), also called a longshoreman, a docker or a dockworker, is a Dock (maritime), waterfront manual laborer who is involved in loading and unloading ships, trucks, rail transport, trains or air transport, airplanes. After the Intermoda ...
s.


Cruise home port

A cruise home port is the port where cruise ship passengers board (or embark) to start their cruise and disembark the cruise ship at the end of their cruise. It is also where the cruise ship's supplies are loaded for the cruise, which includes everything from fresh water and fuel to fruits, vegetables, champagne, and any other supplies needed for the cruise. "Cruise home ports" are very busy places during the day the cruise ship is in port, because off-going passengers debark their baggage and on-coming passengers board the ship in addition to all the supplies being loaded. Cruise home ports tend to have large passenger terminals to handle the large number of passengers passing through the port. The busiest cruise home port in the world is the Port of Miami,
Florida Florida is a U.S. state, state located in the Southeastern United States, Southeastern region of the United States. Florida is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the northwest by Alabama, to the north by Georgia (U.S. state), Geo ...
.


Smart port

A smart port uses technologies, including the
Internet of Things The Internet of things (IoT) describes physical objects (or groups of such objects) with sensors, processing ability, software and other technologies that connect and exchange data with other devices and systems over the Internet or other comm ...
(IoT) and
artificial intelligence Artificial intelligence (AI) is intelligence—perceiving, synthesizing, and inferring information—demonstrated by machines, as opposed to intelligence displayed by animal cognition, animals and human intelligence, humans. Example tasks in ...
(AI) to be more efficient at handling goods. Smart ports usually deploy cloud-based software as part of the process of greater automation to help generate the operating flow that helps the port work smoothly. At present, most of the world's ports have somewhat embedded technology, if not for full leadership. However, thanks to global government initiatives and exponential growth in maritime trade, the amount of intelligent ports has gradually increased. This latest report by business intelligence provider Visiongain assesses that Smart Ports Market spending will reach $1.5 bn in 2019.


Port of call

A port of call is an intermediate stop for a ship on its sailing itinerary. At these ports, cargo ships may take on supplies or fuel, as well as unloading and loading cargo while cruise liners have passengers get on or off ship.


Fishing port

A fishing port is a port or harbor for landing and distributing fish. It may be a recreational facility, but it is usually commercial. A fishing port is the only port that depends on an ocean product, and depletion of fish may cause a fishing port to be uneconomical.


Inland port

An inland port is a port on a navigable lake, river (fluvial port), or canal with access to a sea or ocean, which therefore allows a ship to sail from the ocean inland to the port to load or unload its cargo. An example of this is the St. Lawrence Seaway which allows ships to travel from the Atlantic Ocean several thousand kilometers inland to Great Lakes ports like
Toronto Toronto ( ; or ) is the capital city of the Provinces and territories of Canada, Canadian province of Ontario. With a recorded population of 2,794,356 in 2021, it is the List of the largest municipalities in Canada by population, most pop ...
, Duluth-Superior, and
Chicago (''City in a Garden''); I Will , image_map = , map_caption = Interactive Map of Chicago , coordinates = , coordinates_footnotes = , subdivision_type = List of sovereign states, Count ...
. The term "inland port" is also used for dry ports.


Warm-water port

A warm-water port (also known as an ice-free port) is one where the water does not freeze in winter. This is mainly used in the context of countries with mostly cold winters where parts of the coastline freezes over every winter. Because they are available year-round, warm-water ports can be of great geopolitical or economic interest. Such settlements as
Dalian Dalian () is a major sub-provincial port city in Liaoning province, People's Republic of China, and is Liaoning's second largest city (after the provincial capital Shenyang) and the third-most populous city of Northeast China. Located on the ...
in China, Murmansk, Novorossiysk, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky and Vostochny Port in Russia,
Odessa Odesa (also spelled Odessa) is the third most populous List of cities in Ukraine, city and List of hromadas of Ukraine, municipality in Ukraine and a major seaport and transport hub located in the south-west of the country, on the northwestern sho ...
in Ukraine, Kushiro in Japan and Valdez at the terminus of the Alaska Pipeline owe their very existence to being ice-free ports. The Baltic Sea and similar areas have ports available year-round beginning in the 20th century thanks to icebreakers, but earlier access problems prompted Russia to expand its territory to the
Black Sea The Black Sea is a marginal sea, marginal Mediterranean sea (oceanography), mediterranean sea of the Atlantic Ocean lying between Europe and Asia, east of the Balkans, south of the East European Plain, west of the Caucasus, and north of An ...
.


Dry port

A dry port is an inland intermodal terminal directly connected by road or rail to a seaport and operating as a centre for the transshipment of sea cargo to inland destinations.


Environmental issues

Ports and their operation are often both the cause of environmental issues, such as sediment contamination and spills from ships and are susceptible to larger environmental issues, such as human caused climate change and its effects.


Dredging

Every year 100 million cubic metres of marine sediment are dredged to improve waterways around ports. Dredging, in its practice, disturbs local ecosystems, brings sediments into the water column, and can stir up pollutants captured in the sediments.


Invasive species

Invasive species An invasive species otherwise known as an alien is an introduced species, introduced organism that becomes overpopulated and harms its new environment. Although most introduced species are neutral or beneficial with respect to other species, i ...
are often spread by the bilge water and species attached to the hulls of ships. It is estimated that there are over 7000 invasive species transported in bilge water around the world on a daily basis Invasive species can have direct or in-direct interactions with native sea life. Direct interaction such as predation, is when a native species with no natural predator is all of a sudden prey of an invasive specie. In-direct interaction can be diseases or other health conditions brought by invasive species.


Air pollution

Ports are also a source of increased air pollution both because of the ships and land transportation at the port. Transportation corridors around ports have higher exhaust and emissions and this can have related health effects on the local communities.


Water quality

Water quality around ports is often lower because of both direct and indirect pollution from the shipping, and other challenges caused by the port's community, such as trash washing into the ocean.


Spills, pollution and contamination

Sewage from ships, and leaks of oil and chemicals from shipping vessels can contaminate local water, and cause other effects like nutrient pollution in the water.


Climate change and sea level rise

Ports and their infrastructure are very vulnerable to climate change and sea level rise, because many of them are in low-lying areas designed for status quo water levels. Variable weather, coastal erosion, and sea level rise all put pressure on existing infrastructure, resulting in subsidence,
coastal flooding Coastal flooding normally occurs when dry and low-lying land is submerged by seawater. The range of a coastal flooding is a result of the elevation of floodwater that penetrates the inland which is controlled by the topography of the coastal l ...
and other direct pressures on the port.


Reducing impact

There are several initiatives to decrease negative environmental impacts of ports. The World Port Sustainability Program points to all of the Sustainable Development Goals as potential ways of addressing port sustainability. These include SIMPYC, the World Ports Climate Initiative, the African Green Port Initiative, EcoPorts and Green Marine.


World's major ports


Africa

*The port of Tangier Med is the largest port on the Mediterranean and in Africa by capacity and went into service in July 2007. *The busiest port in Africa is Port Said in Egypt.


Asia

The port of Shanghai is the largest port in the world in both cargo tonnage and activity. It regained its position as the world's busiest port by cargo tonnage and the world's busiest container port in 2009 and 2010, respectively. It is followed by the ports of
Singapore Singapore (), officially the Republic of Singapore, is a sovereign island country, island country and city-state in maritime Southeast Asia. It lies about one degree of latitude () north of the equator, off the southern tip of the Malay Pen ...
,
Hong Kong Hong Kong ( (US) or (UK); , ), officially the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (abbr. Hong Kong SAR or HKSAR), is a List of cities in China, city and Special administrative regions of China, special ...
and
Kaohsiung Kaohsiung City (Mandarin Chinese: ; Wade–Giles: ''Kao¹-hsiung²;'' Pinyin: ''Gāoxióng'') is a Special municipality (Taiwan), special municipality located in southern Taiwan. It ranges from the coastal urban center to the rural Yushan ...
,
Taiwan Taiwan, officially the Republic of China (ROC), is a Country, country in East Asia, at the junction of the East China Sea, East and South China Seas in the northwestern Pacific Ocean, with the China, People's Republic of China (PRC) to the n ...
, all of which are in East and
Southeast Asia Southeast Asia, also spelled South East Asia and South-East Asia, and also known as Southeastern Asia, South-eastern Asia or SEA, is the geographical United Nations geoscheme for Asia#South-eastern Asia, south-eastern region of Asia, consistin ...
. The port of Singapore is the world's second-busiest port in terms of total shipping tonnage, it also transships a third of the world's shipping containers, half of the world's annual supply of
crude oil Petroleum, also known as crude oil, or simply oil, is a naturally occurring yellowish-black liquid mixture of mainly hydrocarbons, and is found in geological formations. The name ''petroleum'' covers both naturally occurring unprocessed crude ...
, and is the world's busiest transshipment port.


Europe

Europe's busiest container port and biggest port by cargo tonnage by far is the Port of Rotterdam, in the Netherlands. It is followed by the Belgian Port of Antwerp or the German Port of Hamburg, depending on which metric is used. In turn, the Spanish Port of Valencia is the busiest port in the Mediterranean basin.


North America

The largest ports include the Port of New York and New Jersey,
Los Angeles Los Angeles ( ; es, Los Ángeles, link=no , ), often referred to by its initials L.A., is the largest city in the state of California California is a U.S. state, state in the Western United States, located along the West Coast of ...
and South Louisiana in the U.S., Manzanillo in Mexico and
Vancouver Vancouver ( ) is a major city in western Canada, located in the Lower Mainland region of British Columbia. As the List of cities in British Columbia, most populous city in the province, the 2021 Canadian census recorded 662,248 people in the ...
in Canada. Panama also has the
Panama Canal The Panama Canal ( es, Canal de Panamá, link=no) is an artificial waterway in Panama that connects the Atlantic Ocean The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's five oceans, with an area of about . It covers approximatel ...
that connects the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean, and is a key conduit for international trade.


Oceania

The largest port in Australia is the Port of Melbourne.


South America

According to ECLAC's "Maritime and Logistics Profile of Latin America and the Caribbean", the largest ports in South America are the Port of Santos in Brazil, Cartagena in Colombia, Callao in Peru, Guayaquil in Ecuador, and the
Port of Buenos Aires The Port of Buenos Aires ( es, Puerto de Buenos Aires) is the principal maritime port in Argentina. Operated by the ''Administración General de Puertos'' (General Ports Administration), a state enterprise, it is the leading transshipment point fo ...
in Argentina.


See also

*
Anchorage (shipping) An anchorage is a location at sea where ships can lower anchors. Anchorages are where anchors are lowered and utilised, whereas Mooring (watercraft), moorings usually are tethering to buoys or something similar. The locations usually have condi ...
*
Megaproject A megaproject is an extremely large-scale investment project. According to the ''Oxford Handbook of Megaproject Management'', "Megaprojects are large-scale, complex ventures that typically cost $1 billion or more, take many years to develop a ...
* Marina - port for recreational boating * Port management * Port operator * Ship transport


Other logistics hubs

*
Airport An airport is an aerodrome with extended facilities, mostly for commercial air transport. Airports usually consists of a landing area, which comprises an aerially accessible open space including at least one operationally active surface ...
* Spaceport * Port of entry


Lists

* Lists of ports * List of busiest cruise ports by passengers


References


External links


Port Industry Statistics, American Association of Port AuthoritiesInformation on yachting facilities at ports around the world from Noonsite.comSocial & Economic Benefits of PORTS
from "NOAA Socioeconomics" website initiative * Antunes, Cátia
''Early Modern Ports, 1500-1750''
European History Online, Mainz: Institute of European History, 2011, retrieved: November 2, 2011. {{Authority control Nautical terminology Infrastructure Industrial buildings