Port Dimensions
Four main dimensions help define the role and function of a port:
  • 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.