A commercial ship is usually a link in a “trade route” between distant points. Goods flowing in the route must be transferred to and from the sea link; they must also be given care while aboard the ship, and in turn they must not be a hazard to the ship and its crew.
Ancient cargo handling consisted almost exclusively of manually carrying cargo in single man-loads. For example, grain would be packed into sacks, each of a size that a man could carry on or off the ship on his shoulders. During the many centuries of dominance by sailing vessels, this process might be supplemented by hoisting with the ship’s running rigging. A line reeved through a block on the end of a yard might be led to a capstan by which a group of men might develop the force needed to lift an object far heavier than a single man-load.
Steam propulsion brought the steam winch and rigging that was intended solely for lifting cargo. The near-universal practice as it developed into the 20th century was to fit at least one pair of booms to serve each cargo hatchway, with each boom supported by rigging from a “king post,” a short, stout mast whose sole function was boom support. Winches were mounted at the base of the king post. In action, the head of one boom would be rigged in fixed position over the hatchway; the head of the other would be rigged over the cargo-handling space on the pier alongside. A single lifting hook would be used, but a line would lead from the hook to each of the two boom-heads (“married falls”) and thence each to its individual winch. By cooperative tensioning and slackening of the two lines, the winch operators could cause the hook to move vertically directly beneath either boom-head or horizontally between them. Cargo was thereby moved between cargo hold and pier with no gear movement save that of the hook and its two supporting lines. This scheme is known as burtoning.
Burtoning was gradually replaced by systems better adapted to special cargoes. It remained in favour only for handling very heavy objects, so that the few ships that were built during the late 20th century for this type of cargo were usually fitted with at least one set of massive burtoning gear. The first cargo to require a unique handling system was petroleum. When first carried by sea, petroleum products were packaged in barrels that were handled in the traditional way, but the great volume to be moved quickly soon made this method of packaging and handling woefully inadequate. Since the late 19th century crude oil and its many products have been transported in bulk—i.e., without packaging. The hulls of tankers (as described above; see Types of ships: Tankers) are subdivided into a number of cells, or tanks, into which the liquid cargo is pumped through hoses by pumps mounted on the shore. Unloading is effected in the reverse manner by pumps mounted within the ship. Usually the only external cargo-handling gear is a pair of cranes or boom-post winch sets (one for each side of the ship) for handling the rather massive hoses that connect ship to shore facility.
The handling of many other commodities is more economical if done without packaging and with at least some of the continuous-flow features of pumping. For example, the loading of “dry bulk” commodities such as coal, ore, and grain is nearly always done from special shore facilities that pour them from a high elevation directly into the cargo holds of the ship. Although the ship may be designed for the commodity, almost any cargo-carrying ship except the tanker can accept dry-bulk cargoes in this fashion.
Discharging dry bulk is another matter. It can be lifted from the holds by grab buckets, but conventional burtoning gear is ill-suited for the operation of these devices. For this reason cargo terminals that receive bulk cargo are often equipped with unloading cranes that are especially suited for grab-bucket operation or with vacuum hoses for moving low-density cargo such as grain. Special-purpose dry-bulk ships may therefore be without onboard cargo handling gear (see above Types of ships: Dry-bulk ships). Examples are the ships built before 1970 to carry iron ore on the Great Lakes of North America.
Since 1970 all such ships built for Great Lakes service have been fitted with their own unloading gear, and their example has been followed by many oceangoing carriers of dry bulk. The handling gear usually consists of a series of three conveyor belts. The first runs under the cargo holds, whence it may receive the cargo through hopper doors in the bottom. The second belt receives the cargo from the first and carries it to the main deck level of the hull. There it discharges to the belt that carries the cargo to the end of a discharge boom, whence the cargo is dumped onto the receiving ground ashore. The discharge boom can be slewed and elevated to reach the appropriate discharge point. A continuously acting onboard discharge system of this type can attain much higher discharge rates than grab buckets, and it avoids the damage to hull surfaces that is inevitable in bucket operation. Further, it gives a ship the flexibility to serve points that are not fitted with unloading gear.
The economic burden of handling nonbulk (or “break-bulk”) cargoes in small batches is less evident than with cargoes that can be pumped, poured, or conveyed, but it was making itself very evident as early as the 1950s. The revenue lost from keeping a ship in port while it was slowly—and at high labour cost—loaded or unloaded was one factor; another was the inherent labour-intensiveness of moving cargo horizontally in order to reach the hoisting gear and then loading and unloading rail cars and trucks at pierside. By 1960 these factors had led to the introduction of standardized steel or aluminum containers—8 × 8 × 40 feet in the most common size—into which almost any nonbulk commodity could be stowed. The primary advantages in containerized shipping are the radical reduction in the number of cargo pieces to be handled and the high degree of protection the containers provide to the cargo items. Further advantages come from designing ships specifically for carriage of containers, shoreside terminals for their rapid transfer, and land vehicles for their carriage. These additional steps were put into place quite rapidly after the container concept was introduced.
The essential feature of container ships is a width of hatchway that allows the containers to be handled solely by vertical lifting and lowering. This feature is usually supplemented by vertical guide rails that divide the cargo holds into cells that are sized precisely to hold stacks of containers. Labour within the hold is thereby reduced to insignificance. A consequence of great value is the freedom from “dunnage,” the packing and bracing necessary to immobilize the usual odd-sized nonbulk cargoes. The highway trailers and railcars that form the land part of the trade route are similarly designed to fit the container, thereby making the shoreside handling rapid and virtually free of hands-on labour. Cranes and lifting gear designed for handling the standard-size containers are the third part of the rapid and economical ship/shore transfer. Cranes best-suited to this service are usually too massive for shipboard mounting and, hence, are part of the terminal. Typical container ships are therefore not fitted with cargo handling gear (see also above Types of ships: Container ships).
In loading or unloading a barge-carrying ship, no shore terminal or any special shore vehicle is required, since delivery to or from the ship is by water. Where the seaport is at the mouth of an extensive river system, the ultimate terminus can be at a great distance from the ship. Points not adjacent to a navigable waterway can be served as well, although an extra step of transfer to or from a land link is required.
When the cargo has wheels—e.g., automobiles, trucks, and railway cars—the most satisfactory cargo handling method is simply to roll it on and off. Vehicle ferries have been familiar in many waters for many centuries (see above, Types of ships: Ferries), and the growth since about 1960 of an extensive international trade in motor vehicles has led to an extension of the ferry principle into roll-on/roll-off ships, which carry automobiles strictly as cargo yet load and unload them by driving them on their own wheels. Ships built for “ro-ro” traffic are fitted with doors in the hull (most often at the ends), internal ramps and elevators for deck-to-deck transfers, and external ramps to join the hull doors to the pier. Often the main or only door is in the stern, facing directly aft and fitted with a massive folding ramp exterior to the hull. The ramp is often equipped for slewing—i.e., rotating so that it can be landed on a pier alongside the ship.
Although many types of cargo are handled by gear that is designed for a particular type, general-purpose equipment retains a niche. However, the traditional burtoning gear has almost disappeared among new buildings in favour of cranes that are adapted from shoreside lifting machinery. This alternative is usually less costly to build and maintain, and it requires less labour in operation.
Handling aboard ship
Many types of cargo require protection from hazards peculiar to a sea passage and from deterioration that may occur from the more general exigencies of transportation. A prominent example of the latter problem is any food product that must be refrigerated during its entire transit from producer to consumer. Ships built with insulated and refrigerated cargo holds are essential to moving such products by sea, though an alternative is transport in insulated and refrigerated containers. In the latter case, the container ship must be fitted with a means of supplying the necessary electric power to the containers.
Cargo carried belowdecks is usually safe from the corrosiveness of seawater, but ship motion from wave action is pervasive. Any nonbulk cargo must be securely fastened in place. Guide rails for containers, usually fitted in container ships, automatically secure any below-deck containers against movement, thereby precluding the labour-intensive task of preparing the cargo to withstand ship motion.
Many liquid cargoes need to be heated because they may otherwise require excessive energy to pump. Some, such as sulfur and asphalt, are liquid, and hence pumpable, only when they are kept at high temperature. Foodstuffs may require refrigeration, but other cold products fall in a cryogenic temperature range that is beyond the capability of shipboard equipment. An example is liquefied natural gas. Ships that carry this product must have cargo tanks that are so heavily insulated that only a small fraction of the cargo is lost to evaporation during a normal voyage (see above Types of ships: Tankers).
Protecting cargo while it is aboard ship is obviously crucial, but in many ways cargoes can be a hazard to ship, crew, and public. Protection against hazardous cargo is therefore also an essential element of cargo handling. Even the most benign cargoes may be a danger to the ship. Grain, for example, can swell from wetting and so produce dangerous pressure against the cargo hold structure. Also, it can flow like any granular product and so may shift to the low side of a ship, exacerbating a heeling angle. Petroleum products are highly flammable and, moreover, may give rise to explosive vapour-air mixtures within a cargo tank. An empty petroleum tank is especially dangerous, since remnants of cargo clinging to the tank have a large surface area in contact with air. The typical safeguard is to displace the air within the tanks by an inert gas—usually air that is depleted of oxygen by having passed through the combustion process in the ship’s propulsion machinery.
The oil spill that may follow a collision or grounding of a tanker is an often-disastrous feature of the petroleum age. Tankers traditionally are not fitted with double bottoms, because the breaching of a tank that is already filled with liquid is not likely to lead to the sinking of the ship. However, the most serious oil spills have followed from bottom damage in grounding accidents, and they would not have happened if an unbreached inner bottom had maintained tank integrity. The current regulatory trend is toward legal requirement of double bottoms in at least the large crude-oil carriers that are the most likely source of devastating spills.
The interiors of oil cargo tanks must be washed occasionally, especially when the ship is preparing to carry a different product on its next voyage. The washings, if discharged indiscriminately, are noxious to the marine environment, and hence marine laws require that the oil be separated and held aboard for discharge into a safe receiving facility in port.
Some bulk cargoes can be corrosive to the structure of the cargo tank or hold, or they may undergo spontaneous reactions that can lead to combustion or—in extreme cases—to explosions. Some substances react violently with water or with other materials that may inadvertently be stowed in the same hold. Given the immense number and variety of substances moving in commerce, their many hazards, and the many possible ways of packaging them, there must also be a large and complex body of regulations governing their movement. For shipment by water, the many regulations are based on the Dangerous Goods Code of the International Maritime Organization, and they are implemented by the various national laws that are based on this code.John B. Woodward
This article is about the facility for ships. For other uses, see Port (disambiguation).
A port is a maritime commercial facility which may comprise one or more wharves where ships may dock to load and discharge passengers and cargo. Although usually situated on a sea coast or estuary, some ports, such as Hamburg, Manchester and Duluth, are many miles inland, with access from the sea via river or canal.
Today, by far the greatest growth in port development is in Asia, the continent with some of the world's largest and busiest ports, such as Singapore and the Chinese ports of Shanghai and Ningbo-Zhoushan.
Main article: Historical Ports
Whenever ancient civilisations engaged in maritime trade, they tended to develop sea ports. One of the world's oldest known artificial harbors is at Wadi al-Jarf on the Red Sea. Along with the finding of harbor structures, ancient anchors have also been found.
Other ancient ports include Guangzhou during Qin Dynasty China and Canopus, the principal Egyptian port for Greek trade before the foundation of Alexandria. In ancient Greece, Athens' port of Piraeus was the base for the Athenian fleet which played a crucial role in the Battle of Salamis against the Persians in 480 BC. In ancient India from 3700 BCE, Lothal was a prominent city of the Indus valley civilisation, located in the Bhāl region of the modern state of Gujarāt. Ostia Antica was the port of ancient Rome with Portus established by Claudius and enlarged by Trajan to supplement the nearby port of Ostia. In Japan, during the Edo period, the island of Dejima was the only port open for trade with Europe and received only a single Dutch ship per year, whereas Osaka was the largest domestic port and the main trade hub for rice.
Nowadays, many of these ancient sites no longer exist or function as modern ports. Even in more recent times, ports sometimes fall out of use. Rye, East Sussex, was an important English port in the Middle Ages, but the coastline changed and it is now 2 miles (3.2 km) from the sea, while the ports of Ravenspurn and Dunwich have been lost to coastal erosion.
Whereas early ports tended to be just simple harbours, modern ports tend to be multimodal distribution hubs, with transport links using sea, river, canal, road, rail and air routes. Successful ports are located to optimize access to an active hinterland, such as the London Gateway. Ideally, a port will grant easy navigation to ships, and will give shelter from wind and waves. Ports are often on estuaries, where the water may be shallow and may need regular dredging. Deep water ports such as Milford Haven are less common, but can handle larger ships with a greater draft, such as super tankers, Post-Panamax vessels and large container ships. Other businesses such as regional distribution centres, warehouses and freight-forwarders, canneries and other processing facilities find it advantageous to be located within a port or nearby. Modern ports will have specialised cargo-handling equipment, such as gantry cranes, reach stackers and forklift trucks.
Ports usually have specialised functions: some tend to cater mainly for passenger ferries and cruise ships; some specialise in container traffic or general cargo; and some ports play an important military role for their nation's navy. Some third world countries and small islands such as Ascension and St Helena still have limited port facilities, so that ships must anchor off while their cargo and passengers are taken ashore by barge or launch (respectively).
In modern times, ports survive or decline, depending on current economic trends. In the UK, both the ports of Liverpool and Southampton were once significant in the transatlantic passenger liner business. Once airliner traffic decimated that trade, both ports diversified to container cargo and cruise ships. Up until the 1950s the Port of London was a major international port on the River Thames, but changes in shipping and the use of containers and larger ships, have led to its decline. Thamesport, a small semi-automated container port (with links to the Port of Felixstowe, the UK's largest container port) thrived for some years, but has been hit hard by competition from the emergent London Gateway port and logistics hub.
In mainland Europe, it is normal for ports to be publicly owned, so that, for instance, the ports of Rotterdam and Amsterdam are owned partly by the state and partly by the cities themselves. By contrast, in the UK all ports are in private hands, such as Peel Ports who own the Port of Liverpool, John Lennon Airport and the Manchester Ship Canal.
Even though modern ships tend to have bow-thrusters and stern-thrusters, many port authorities still require vessels to use pilots and tugboats for manoeuvering large ships in tight quarters. For instance, ships approaching the Belgian port of Antwerp, an inland port on the River Scheldt, are obliged to use Dutch pilots when navigating on that part of the estuary that belongs to the Netherlands.
Ports with international traffic have customs facilities.
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.
Main article: Inland port
An inland port is a port on a navigable lake, river (fluvial port), or canal with access to a sea or ocean, which therefore allows a ship to sail from the ocean inland to the port to load or unload its cargo. An example of this is the St. Lawrence Seaway which allows ships to travel from the Atlantic Ocean several thousand kilometers inland to Great Lakes ports like Toronto, Duluth-Superior, and Chicago.
A fishing port is a port or harbor 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.
Main article: Dry port
A dry port is an inland intermodal terminal directly connected by road or rail to a seaport and operating as a centre for the transshipment of sea cargo to inland destinations.
A warm-water port is one where the water does not freeze in wintertime. Because they are available year-round, warm-water ports can be of great geopolitical or economic interest. Such settlements as Dalian in China, Vostochny Port,Murmansk and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky in Russia, Odessa in Ukraine, Kushiro in Japan and Valdez at the terminus of the Alaska Pipeline owe their very existence to being ice-free ports. The Baltic Sea and similar areas have ports available year-round beginning in the 20th century thanks to icebreakers, but earlier access problems prompted Russia to expand its territory to the Black Sea.
A seaport is further categorized as a "cruise port" or a "cargo port". Additionally, "cruise ports" are also known as a "home port" or a "port of call". The "cargo port" is also further categorized into a "bulk" or "break bulk port" or as a "container port".
Cruise home port
A cruise home port is the port where cruise ship passengers board (or embark) to start their cruise and disembark the cruise ship at the end of their cruise. It is also where the cruise ship's supplies are loaded for the cruise, which includes everything from fresh water and fuel to fruits, vegetables, champagne, and any other supplies needed for the cruise. "Cruise home ports" are very busy places during the day the cruise ship is in port, because off-going passengers debark their baggage and on-coming passengers board the ship in addition to all the supplies being loaded. Currently, the Cruise Capital of the World is the Port of Miami, Florida, closely followed behind by Port Everglades, Florida and the Port of San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Port of call
A port of call is an intermediate stop for a ship on its sailing itinerary. At these ports, cargo ships may take on supplies or fuel, as well as unloading and loading cargo while cruise liners have passengers get on or off ship.
Cargo ports, on the other hand, are quite different from cruise ports, because each handles very different cargo, which has to be loaded and unloaded by very different mechanical means. The port may handle one particular type of cargo or it may handle numerous cargoes, such as grains, liquid fuels, liquid chemicals, wood, automobiles, etc. Such ports are known as the "bulk" or "break bulk ports". Those ports that handle containerized cargo are known as container ports. Most cargo ports handle all sorts of cargo, but some ports are very specific as to what cargo they handle. Additionally, the individual cargo ports are divided into different operating terminals which handle the different cargoes, and are operated by different companies, also known as terminal operators or stevedores.
There are several initiatives to decrease negative environmental impacts of ports. These include SIMPYC, the World Ports Climate Initiative, the African Green Port Initiative and EcoPorts.
World's major ports
Main article: List of seaports
See also: Ports and harbours in South Africa
The busiest port in Africa is Port Said in Egypt.
See also: List of East Asian ports and List of ports and harbours of the Indian Ocean
The port of Shanghai is the largest port in the world in both cargo tonnage and activity. It regained its position as the world's busiest port by cargo tonnage and the world's busiest container port in 2009 and 2010, respectively. It is followed by the ports of Singapore and Hong Kong, both of which are in Asia.
See also: List of busiest ports in Europe
Europe's busiest container port and biggest port by cargo tonnage by far is the Port of Rotterdam, in the Netherlands. It is followed by the Belgian Port of Antwerp or the German Port of Hamburg, depending on which metric is used. In turn, Valencia (Spain) is the busiest port in the Mediterranean basin.
See also: List of North American ports and Ports of the United States
The largest ports include the ports of Los Angeles and South Louisiana in the U.S., Manzanillo in Mexico and Vancouver in Canada. Panama also has the Panama Canal that connects the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean, and is a key conduit for international trade.
The largest port in Australia is the Port of Melbourne.
According to ECLAC's "Maritime and Logistics Profile of Latin America and the Caribbean", the largest ports in South America are the Port of Santos in Brazil, Cartagena in Colombia, Callao in Peru, Guayaquil in Ecuador and the Port of Buenos Aires in Argentina.
Other logistics hubs
- ^Rossella Lorenzi (12 April 2013). "Most Ancient Port, Hieroglyphic Papyri Found". Discovery News. Retrieved 21 April 2013.
- ^Thamesport 
- ^"Seaway System". greatlakes-seaway.com.
- ^"Feasibility Study on the network operation of Hinterland Hubs (Dry Port Concept) to improve and modernise ports' connections to the hinterland and to improve networking"(PDF). InLoc. January 2007. Archived from the original(PDF) on 2008-04-13. Retrieved 2008-03-10.
- ^"Vostochny Port JSC, Geography, Location". Vostochny Port website. 2007. Archived from the original on 29 November 2012. Retrieved 13 December 2012.
- ^EOS magazine, 6,2012
- ^World Port Rankings 2011 (PDF)
- ^"Los 10 mayores puertos de América Latina y Caribe en tráfico de contenedores". Revista de Ingeniería Naval (in Spanish). Madrid, Spain: Asociación de Ingenieros Navales y Oceánicos de España. September 28, 2016. Retrieved May 3, 2017.