Four main dimensions help define the role and function of a
- Place. A port is at start a location that
has physical characteristics (such as a protected bay) and thus
support a more effective interface between the maritime and land
domains than many other locations. This marks the difference
between a good and a less suitable port site. Although the
location of a port does not change, the site can be improved
through dredging and land reclamation. However, this comes are
the expense of substantial capital investment. The situation of a port
can also change since it is relative to large zones of
production and consumption.
- Operations. A port has some operational
characteristics in terms of the type of traffic it can handle
and the related volumes. This is contingent upon the
infrastructure (e.g. berths) and the superstructure (e.g. cranes
and yard equipment) linking the port foreland (the ports it is
connected to) and the port hinterland (its inland market area).
With capital investments and training the operational efficiency
of a port can be improved.
- Administrative unit. A port is a well
defined administrative unit that involves land ownership and a
jurisdiction (what a port can legally do). The port authority is
a common administrative framework for a port and in many cases
the management and operations of many terminals is leased to
private companies. Port authorities usually have the right to
spearhead port development projects.
- Value chain. A port is the support of
transport and supply chains and thus adds value. Historically,
heavy industrial activities such as steel mills and
petrochemical plants had a propensity to locate within or nearby
ports, a process that is still going on and being complemented
by a large array of freight distribution activities.