How Ports Work
As the seas continue to play a fundamental role in globalisation, ports become an ever-more important feature in modern transport. From these trade hubs, huge cargo ships come and go bearing all manner of goods, from essentials such as food and fuel to more exclusive products like cars.
A port comprises two main sections in order to run effectively: sea-based and land-based infrastructure. The former starts with buoys positioned at sea to help direct boats via the safest route, away from shallow waters or hazardous rocks – much like the lights on a runway or cat’s eyes on a road. These are followed by breakwaters at the harbour entrance. These man-made walls of concrete or natural rock help to absorb the power from the most ferocious waves, ensuring the water within is calm so vessels don’t get damaged.
Further into the ports are a series of docks that allow a ship into an enclosed area where it can be moored for loading or unloading cargo or passengers. These can include dry docks, which shut gates off to drain the seawater from the enclosure, leaving the lower hull and keel accessible for restoration. The land-based infrastructure is immediately more visible when visiting a port, with huge cranes permanently ﬁ xed onto the docks to pick up heavy containers from a ship.
Ships with a drive-on capacity will be connected to a ramp mounted on the quay to enable road-going vehicles to board. Set back from the water, there will usually be easy access to railway lines and major roads so cargo can seamlessly carry on its journey inland.