It is almost impossible to classify a port into a particular category, as generally ports have many facilities available for numerous traffic activities. However, as a generalization, it may be interesting to note some port categories:
Entrepot: Places where goods are transferred from one ship to another i.e. large ports such as Rotterdam, where cargo arrives in large vessels and is transferred to smaller or coastal vessels and/or barges for onward transit.
Naval Ports: Home ports for national Navies, such as Plymouth or Portsmouth, often chosen for strategic purposes.
Ferry Ports: Terminals for short sea routes connecting two countries e.g. Dover/Calais, Folkestone/Boulogne where ferries ply the English Channel between England and France.
Outports: Often old established ports on rivers which cannot accommodate the larger vessels so new ports are built nearer the sea e.g. Tilbury and its neighboring estuarial terminals have taken over most of the Thames shipping activity, superseding London with its obsolete enclosed docks and further distance from the sea.
Fishing Ports: Smaller ports, which are the home ports of fishing fleets, usually located near the recognized fishing grounds and having good transport facilities inland for quick despatch of the catch.
Goods/Cargo: The large majority of ports will deal with cargo imports and/or exports. These cargoes will be very varied in nature. The larger ports will cover all aspects from bulk cargoes, such as grain, to container facilities, and oil terminals. Such an example would be Rotterdam but most of the major ports do have these facilities.
Free Zone: A free zone is an area of land that is considered for customs purposes to be outside the territory of its host state. Goods may be brought into the zone without import duties being paid; duties are paid only if the goods are “imported” from the zone to the territory of the Host State. Enterprises operating in the zone are thus able to hold stock without the duty element adding to their working capital. Free zones located at or near ports are often called “Freeports”. In addition to having a suspended duty customs regime, some free zones offer incentives such as tax concessions or grants designed to encourage business. Zones may also be exempt from the operation of certain laws or regulations, which apply on the national territory proper. The variety of concessions offered by different countries makes it difficult to generalize about the potential of free zones. The opportunities for a particular zone will depend on the exact nature of the regulations applying in the zone, and how these compare with conditions in the host country and in neighboring countries.
The major shipping publishers produce annual volumes of port information and one of these is an essential part of any shipping office library. Remember always, that the data could easily be over a year out of date so that anything that may be considered marginal should be checked with a local agent.