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What is a Seaport?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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A seaport is a facility which can accommodate ships which go out to sea. Seaports can be found in natural and artificial harbors along many coastlines in the world, and they have a variety of fixtures including cranes to help ships handle cargo, and docks for ships to attach to. Seaports are of economic and strategic importance to the nations which hold them, because they can be used for everything from shipping out a nation's consumer products to loading up troop ships to sail to war.

Ports can also be found in inland waters such as lakes and rivers, but they are not known as seaports because they do not have facilities for seagoing ships. In some cases, inland ports have no outlet to the ocean, and in other instances, the waterway may not be navigable by oceangoing ships. Not all seagoing ships can fit in a seaport, either: large oil tankers, for example, actually dock offshore while smaller tenders load and offload their cargo.

A typical seaport includes equipment and facilities for handling and storing cargo, such as warehouses and cranes, along with amenities which are designed to appeal to people coming into port, such as restaurants and hotels. Ship building and repair companies are typically located near ports for the convenience of their clients, and sea ports may also have facilities for quarantine and other special needs; a well-designed port may allow people to get everything they need without straying more than a few blocks away from their ship.

Some seaports are primarily focused on cargo and commercial trade, while others cater to passenger boats like cruise ships, and many provide facilities for a mix of uses. People may also be able to dock personal craft such as sailboats at a seaport so that they will have ready access to the ocean. Offices of shipping companies, harbor masters, pilots, and tugboat businesses are also classically located next to the port for convenience.

The strategic importance of a seaport can change over time. Some ports have been lost due to erosion or other issues which have caused the port to vanish or become innavigable. Others have become less important because they are no longer on major trade routes, or because a nation's production of cargo has declined, making the port less profitable for shippers. The most valuable ports tend to be warm water ports, in which the water in and around the port does not freeze in the winter, allowing the port to be used year-round.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WikiMotors researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By Misscoco — On Sep 10, 2011

While there are many countries that have good ports, there are some countries that are landlocked and have no access to the oceans. There are some that can get to the ocean if they go along a big river.

But over history, these countries have had great difficulty making economic or political progress.

It's too bad the way the boundaries were drawn and how they have changed because of war. Some countries have so much of their land bordering an ocean or sea, while others have none or very little.

By B707 — On Sep 10, 2011

My grandfather began sailing on ships all around the world when he was just 16 years old. When he finally settled down, he took a job as a repairman of ships in a big and busy port. He loved his job. Climbing way up on the high reaches of a ship to repair it was his idea of fun.

This port was busy with trade ships coming and going. Cruise ships sometimes came here. There were all kinds of restaurants and shops. He would take us down there to see the big ships and all. On a clear day, it was a beautiful sight.

By OeKc05 — On Sep 09, 2011

The only thing more comforting to a sailor than the sight of land is the sight of a seaport. My dad told me this, as he spent most of his young life out on the ocean.

He takes me sailing on his yacht now. I felt what he must have felt during a thunderstorm that popped up out of nowhere. We were being tossed about violently, and we could not see anything but the rain and waves.

The storm subsided just enough for us to see the shoreline. We were having trouble finding the port, though. When we finally saw it, I felt such relief! When we pulled into it and docked, I got out and hugged the wooden poles that the sailors use to tie ropes to and anchor.

By kylee07drg — On Sep 09, 2011

When I go on vacation, one of my favorite places to visit is a seaport. I love walking out on the piers and examining the different types of vessels. I often take photographs to use as inspiration for paintings.

I also love the smell of fresh seafood. The air is thick with the aroma of shrimp, both living and cooked. I cannot visit a seaport without eating at one of the fine restaurants along the way.

Another staple of seaports is the diving seagulls. I bring stale crackers to toss up into the air and feed them. I photograph them as they swoop to catch the food.

By orangey03 — On Sep 08, 2011

A lot of facilities were located near the seaport where my cruise ship docked. I had a large array of seafood restaurants to choose from, and I ate at several different ones during my stay.

Loads of clothing boutiques lined the street nearby. Arts and crafts vendors had set up outside, and they were selling some unique, beautiful jewelry that I had to buy.

This setup is really beneficial to both the locals and the cruise ship line, which I’m sure has some sort of monetary contract with the city where it docks. Businesses near a seaport probably sell a lot more than those located further inland because of cruise ship passengers.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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