What Are Different Types of Ports For Ships?

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By Soumyajit Dasgupta | In: Marine Ports | Last Updated on July 21, 2016

A port can be defined as a harbor or an area that is able to provide shelter to numerous boats and vessels, and can also allow constant or periodic transaction of shipment. The port can be a natural establishment or an artificial construction, which provides a place for the loading and unloading of cargo. Ports can be for large sea going ships and also for inland waterways such as rivers and lakes. The depth of the ports play a vital role in allowing various types of ships to enter and dock at the port.

These days most of the ports (especially seaports) are well-equipped with specialized fixtures such as forklifts and gantry cranes to facilitate regular dealings of cargo. Ports can of great significance to a nation, as it promotes the commercial welfare and the trade scenario. Ports can also be of military importance, as they are used to keep the warships before moving out to the battle scene.


Credits: BMT Press Office

Considering a variety of factors such as location, depth, and ship sizes, ports are classified into various types. Some of the main types are as follows:

Sea Ports

Sea ports are the most common types of ports around the world which are used for commercial shipping activities  These ports are built on a sea location and enable the accommodation of both small and large vessels. Numerous seaports are situated along the coastline and actively handle the ongoing cargo transactions. A seaport can be further categorized as cargo port or cruise port. Some of the oldest seaports are still used for recreational and fishing purpose.

Special warehouses are also constructed to store the shipment, and to maintain the regular stocking. Added facilities such as hotels, restaurants, port reception facilities, restrooms and eateries can also be made available to rouse the interest of the people visiting the port. Seaports form some of thebiggest and busiest ports in the world.

Inland Ports

Inland ports are ports built on comparatively smaller water bodies such as rivers or lakes. They can either be for cargo purpose or for passengers or for both. Some of these inland ports can have access to the sea with the help of a canal system. As such ports are built on inland waterways they usually behave like normal seaports but are not able to allow deep draft ship traffic. Some of the inland ports can be also be specifically made for recreational purpose allowing only small sized vessels or can be used just for ferrying people and fishing activities.

Inland ports are known for their quality to function in a smooth manner, unlike the clogged sea ports.These ports can also sometimes be referred to as dry ports, and are similar to active intermodal hubs. The inland port at Montreal is the biggest of its kind.

Fishing Ports

Fishing ports mainly donates to the commercial sphere as it participates in fishing. The fishing activities can also be treated as a mode of recreation. The existence of a fishing port entirely relies upon the availability of fishes in that region of the ocean. A fishing port can be an inland port or a seaport.

Warm Water Ports

The biggest advantage where a warm water port is concerned, is that the water does not freeze during the frosty winters. Therefore, it is free to operate all year round without a temporary shutdown during the freezing time. Such ports help to a great extent to boost the economy of the nation.

A few notable examples may include Ukraine’s Odessa, Russia’s Vostochny Port and Murmansk Port, Japan’s Kushiro and Alaska’s Valdez.

Dry Ports

Dry ports are defined as inland terminals that can be interconnected with a seaport via road or rail transportation facilities, and they usually act as centers of multimodal logistics. A dry port proves useful in the trade of importing and exporting cargo and can help to lessen the inevitable congestion at a nearby seaport. Its functions are quite similar to that of a seaport, with the only difference that is not situated near the coastline.

A dry port consists of all the necessary machinery to handle the constant clearance of shipment, like proper cargo-instrumentations, rail sidings, storehouses, and even container yards.

Cruise Home Ports

This type of port specializes in dealing with the activities of a cruise ships, and provide the platform for the passengers to enter and disembark the cruises at the beginning and the end of the journeys, respectively. A cruise home port is also capable of providing the essential provisions required for a luxurious cruise voyage. The supplying may vary from fuel resources to fresh drinking water, wines, foods etc.

A typical cruise home port is always congested and is buzzing with people boarding or leaving the cruises. Some of the popular cruise home ports include Florida’s Port of Miami and Port Everglades, and Puerto Rico’s Port of San Juan.

Similarly, Port of Call is a type of port which is paid a brief visit by a ship on voyage. It is mainly required for necessary cargo discharge, or for carrying out essential repair works. Many passengers can also leave the vessel at a “port of call”.

As mentioned earlier, the ships can also replenish their fuel supplies or food storage. It serves as a stopover port, in between the home ports of a particular vessel.

Cargo Ports

As the name suggests, these ports act according to the cargo it manages and the amenities available differ from one port to the other. These ports are also known as “bulk ports” or “break bulk ports”. The cargo ports involve many mechanical techniques to load or unload the shipment. A cargo port may be designed to deal with single, as well as multiple types of products. Items such as liquid fuels, chemicals, food grains, timber, machines and motorcars, are transported to various places, employing the adeptness of a cargo port. Deep water ports are sometimes used along with those cargo ports which do not have sufficient depth to allow big ships.

A cargo port which engages in the transfer of containerized goods is referred to as a container port. Numerous operating terminals branch out from individual bulk ports, and are assigned to maintain the various kinds of ship ladings. Stevedores are the companies which act as terminal operators and preside over the actions of the diverse operating terminals.

Difference Between Ports and Terminals

Ports are strategic geographical locations which are situated at the edge of ocean, seas, rivers, or lakes. These locations are then developed to inculcate facilities for loading and unloading of cargo ships. The facilities provided for a port depends on the purpose for which the port is being used.

Whereas a terminal is referred to as the set of facilities at a port where loading and unloading of cargo/container takes place. Terminals are named on the basis of type of cargo that can be handled by them. Some of the most common types of terminals are container terminal, bulk cargo terminal, LNG terminal etc.