A port is a docking place for ships on the coast of the ocean, a river, or a lake. Ships dock at ports to load and unload their cargo and passengers.
Ports play a crucial role in transporting goods and raw materials. They are often categorized by their purpose. For example, Ras Tanura, Saudi Arabia, is an oil port. Concarneau, France, is a fishing port. Gibraltar, a territory of Great Britain, is a naval port, used by the military. Nassau, Bahamas, is a cruise ship and tourism port.
Ships usually have more than one port of call, or place where they dock. Before the construction of the Panama Canal, a ship traveling from New York, New York, to San Francisco, California, would have dozens of ports of call around the coasts of North and South America. These might include Miami, Florida; Recife, Brazil; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Valparaiso, Chile; and Acapulco, Mexico.
Cargo ports are important commercial centers where water transportation and land transportation meet. Many goods, such as cars, oil, iron, and steel, are too heavy or unwieldy to be transported across long distances by plane, train, or truck. Trains may transport such goods to a port, where they are loaded onto a ship. Once on the ship, goods travel across the globe.
Some cargo ships are far too large to operate in a crowded port. Tugboats are small, powerful boats that tug large ships behind them. The tugboat can pull the heavier ship into port with greater ease than the ship could manage on its own. Tugboats are familiar sights at many ports.
The port of New Orleans, Louisiana, has been one of the busiest cargo ports in the United States for hundreds of years. This port connects the interior of the United States to the rest of the world through the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. The Mississippi moves more than 500 million tons of cargo every year. Thousands of ships dock along the Mississippi in New Orleans. Ships from the United States unload goods such as grain and other agricultural products from the Midwest. Ships from Latin America unload coffee and goods such as rubber. Ships from Asia may bring goods like clothing or barrels of oil.
Most cargo ports are warm-water ports. Warm-water ports are ports that remain ice-free all year. Even ports where the water is cold, such as New York, New York, or Vancouver, Canada, are warm-water ports. Russia has thousands of miles of coast, and hundreds of ports, along the Arctic Ocean. Almost all of these are cold-water ports. They sometimes remain locked in ice for weeks or even months at a time. Goods cannot be transported in or out of the port when it is blocked by ice. Sailors cannot board or stay in submarines when the vessels are surrounded by ice.
Some ports, such as the one in Dover, England, chiefly serve passengers. The port at Dover has been used by people for centuries because it provides the shortest sea crossing between England and Europe, at just over 32 kilometers (20 miles).
Passenger ports have traditionally been centers of communication. Historically, ports brought the latest news, goods, and fashion from overseas. People who live and work around busy ports are often familiar with foreign languages and cultures. The port of New York was the gateway to the United States for millions of immigrants from Europe in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, for instance. Italian, Spanish, and Yiddish became familiar languages, while customs from Scandinavia and Russia mixed with Irish traditions.
Ports can also play host to more dangerous types of communication. The brisk ports of the Mediterranean Sea have been part of trade routes for thousands of years, familiar to sailors and traders from Africa, Asia, and Europe. In the fourteenth century, sailing vessels from the Black Sea landed at the port of Messina, Sicily. Besides cargo like silk from China, rugs from Persia, and spices from Indonesia, the ships carried rats. The disease on these rats, plague, spread quickly throughout all of Europe. At least a quarter of the European population died from a form of the plague called the Black Death.
Port and Starboard
Port refers to the left side of a ship, when facing forward; starboard is the right side.
A city or region's port authority manages the activity of the region's port. Port authorities work with governments, industries, and the police to help promote the safe economic activity of the port.
Paddle-to-the-Sea is a 1941 book by Holling C. Holling about a wooden model of a Native American visiting ports, including a sawmill and iron foundry, along the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River in Canada and the United States.
In 2005 the Port of Shanghai, China, became the busiest port in the world. Shanghai includes a port on the Pacific Ocean as well as on the Yangtze River. Each year more than 560 million tons of cargo go through Shanghai's port, and that number is still climbing. Some of the world's other busiest cargo ports include those at Singapore and in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry Black Death Noun
(1345-1400) plague that devastated Europe, killing a quarter of the population.
busy and quick.
canoe noun, verb
small, open boat with pointed ends.
goods carried by a ship, plane, or other vehicle.
to arrange by specific type or characteristic.
edge of land along the sea or other large body of water.
Encyclopedic Entry: coast coffee Noun
plant native to Africa whose dried berries and seeds are used for a drink of the same name.
cold-water port Noun
place for ships to stop that is locked in ice for part of the year.
having to do with the buying and selling of goods and services.
sharing of information and ideas.
construction equipment Noun
tools and instruments used for constructing buildings, roads, or other projects.
cruise ship Noun
vessel transporting tourists on a trip.
to bring and secure a ship or boat to a space or facility.
having to do with money.
to catch or harvest fish.
harvested seed of such grasses as wheat, oats, and rice.
Encyclopedic Entry: grain Great Lakes Noun
largest freshwater bodies in the world, located in the United States and Canada. Lake Huron, Lake Ontario, Lake Michigan, Lake Erie, and Lake Superior make up the Great Lakes.
person who moves to a new country or region.
chemical element with the symbol Fe.
iron foundry Noun
facility for produciing tools and other material made of iron.
body of water surrounded by land.
Encyclopedic Entry: lake Latin America Noun
South America, Central America, the Caribbean, and Mexico.
to make or produce a good, usually for sale.
area of the United States consisting of the following states: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.
naval port Noun
place on a body of water where ships load and unload military personnel and machinery.
fossil fuel formed from the remains of marine plants and animals. Also known as petroleum or crude oil.
Panama Canal Noun
artificial waterway between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea through the country of Panama.
very infectious, often fatal, disease caused by bacteria.
place on a body of water where ships can tie up or dock and load and unload cargo.
Encyclopedic Entry: port port authority Noun
commission or group of people responsible for supporting the safe economic activity of a port.
port of call Noun
place on a ship's itinerary or planned voyage.
port wine Noun
dark red alcoholic beverage.
raw material Noun
matter that needs to be processed into a product to use or sell.
large stream of flowing fresh water.
Encyclopedic Entry: river rubber Noun
natural or man-made chemical substance that is tough, elastic and can resist moisture.
woven fabric placed over a floor.
facility for turning raw timber into boards and other lumber material.
region and name for some countries in Northern Europe: Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark.
soft, strong fiber spun by some moth larvae, spiders, and other animals.
tasty and aromatic plant substances used in cooking.
right side of a ship.
metal made of the elements iron and carbon.
amount of cargo, in tons, carried by a vessel.
trade route Noun
path followed by merchants or explorers to exchange goods and services.
movement of people or goods from one place to another.
small boat with a strong engine used to push or pull much larger ships.
clumsy or difficult to operate smoothly.
warm-water port Noun
place for ships to stop that remains ice-free all year.
language and culture of Jewish populations native to Central Europe.