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Ports and harbors

Ports are places where ships can load and unload their cargo and passengers. They may be situated on harbors or on river estuaries. They provide facilities for berthing ships and handling and storing their cargo. They must have good road, rail, or water communications so that goods and passengers can be speedily transported. Large ports have facilities for repairing vessels, too.

The way in which a ship berths, or moors, to unload its cargo depends on the rise and fall of the tide. Where the tide is not too great, the ship berths alongside a quay or a jetty. The quay is a built-up section of the waterfront. A jetty is a structure built out into the water at right angles to the quay.

Tilbury Dock - kids facts about earth - ports and harbors

Both fishing boats - kids facts about earth - ports and harbors

Tilbury Dock lies on the Thames River, to the east of London, England (click to increase a picture)

Both fishing boats and pleasure craft are based at Gloucester, Massachusetts. The city has been an important fishing port for more than 300 years (click to increase a picture)

A wide variety of mechanical handling equipment is used on the dockside to handle cargo, including traveling cranes with slings and nets, suction elevators (for grain), and electric fork-lift trucks.

Repairs to ships are done in dry docks. They are docks from which the water can be pumped out, leaving the ship inside high and dry. A floating dry dock can be sunk low in the water so that a ship can enter it. Then it can be raised up out of the water to lift the ship clear. Some harbors are too small or not deep enough to handle large ships, but they are used for fishing and small sailing boats.

At harbors of entry, cargoes are checked by customs officials. A port of entry may also serve as a disembarkation (landing) point for people coming in from other countries, and as an embarkation (departure) point for those leaving the country.

Portofino - kids facts about earth - ports and harbors

A crane - kids facts about earth - ports and harbors

Portofino is a port near Genoa in north-western Italy

A crane dominates this view of the busy, modern port of Clydeside near Glasgow, in Scotland

America's largest harbor, New York, is also the busiest port in the world. In 1966, New York handled 157,072,000 tons of cargo. Other important ports on the Atlantic Ocean are Baltimore and Norfolk. Southern ports include Houston, Mobile and New Orleans, which are all on the Gulf of Mexico. The chief port on the Pacific coast is San Francisco. Other ports on the west coast are Los Angeles and Seattle.

Some of the busiest cities of North America are inland ports on the Great Lakes. They include Kingston, Montreal, Quebec, Sault Sainte Marie and Toronto (Canada), and Buffalo, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Duluth and Milwaukee in the United States.

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