A port is a location on a coast or shore containing one or more harbors where ships can dock and transfer people or cargo to or from land. Port locations are selected to optimize access to land and navigable water, for commercial demand, and for shelter from wind and waves. Ports with deeper water are rarer, but can handle larger, more economical ships. Since ports throughout history handled every kind of traffic, support and storage facilities vary widely, may extend for miles, and dominate the local economy. Some ports have an important, perhaps exclusively military role.
Ports often have cargo-handling equipment, such as cranes (operated by longshoremen) and forklifts for use in loading ships, which may be provided by private interests or public bodies. Often, canneries or other processing facilities will be located nearby. Some ports feature canals, which allow ships further movement inland. Access to intermodal transportation, such as trains and trucks, are critical to a port, so that passengers and cargo can also move further inland beyond the port area. Ports with international traffic have customs facilities. Harbour pilots and tugboats may maneuver large ships in tight quarters when near docks.
The terms "port" and "seaport" are used for different types of port facilities that handle ocean-going vessels, and river port is used for river traffic, such as barges and other shallow-draft vessels. Some ports on a lake, river, or canal have access to a sea or ocean, and are sometimes called "inland ports".
A fishing port is a port or harbour facility 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. In recent decades, regulations to save fishing stock may limit the use of a fishing port, perhaps effectively closing it.
A "dry port" is a term sometimes used to describe a yard used to place containers or conventional bulk cargo, usually connected to a seaport by rail or road.
A warm water port is where the water does not freeze in winter time. Because they are available year-round, warm water ports can be of great geopolitical or economic interest.
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