New York Harbor and the Hudson River in the foreground; the East River in the background.
Capri harbor, Italy seen from Anacapri
Koyilandy Harbour, Kerala, India

A harbor (American English), or harbour (Canadian English, British English; see spelling differences), is a sheltered body of water where ships, boats, and barges can be moored. The term harbor is often used interchangeably with port, which is a man-made facility built for loading and unloading vessels and dropping off and picking up passengers. Harbors usually include one or more ports. Alexandria Port in Egypt, meanwhile, is an example of a port with two harbors.

Harbors may be natural or artificial. An artificial harbor can have deliberately constructed breakwaters, sea walls, or jetties or they can be constructed by dredging, which requires maintenance by further periodic dredging. An example of an artificial harbor is Long Beach Harbor, California, United States, which was an array of salt marshes and tidal flats too shallow for modern merchant ships before it was first dredged in the early 20th century.[1] In contrast, a natural harbor is surrounded on several sides by land. Examples of natural harbors include Sydney Harbour, New South Wales, Australia, Halifax Harbour in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada and Trincomalee Harbour in Sri Lanka.

Artificial harbors

Artificial harbors are frequently built for use as ports. The oldest artificial harbor known is the Ancient Egyptian site at Wadi al-Jarf, on the Red Sea coast, which is at least 4500 years old (ca. 2600-2550 BCE, reign of King Khufu). The largest artificially created harbor is Jebel Ali in Dubai.[2] Other large and busy artificial harbors include:

The Ancient Carthaginians constructed fortified, artificial harbors called cothons.

Natural harbors

Tanjung Perak is a famous example of a natural harbor in Indonesia. The harbor location in Madura Strait.

A natural harbor is a landform where a section of a body of water is protected and deep enough to allow anchorage. Many such harbors are rias. Natural harbors have long been of great strategic naval and economic importance, and many great cities of the world are located on them. Having a protected harbor reduces or eliminates the need for breakwaters as it will result in calmer waves inside the harbor. Some examples are:

Ice-free harbors

For harbors near the North and South poles, being ice-free is an important advantage, especially when it is year-round. Examples of these are:

The world's southernmost harbor, located at Antarctica's Winter Quarters Bay (77° 50′ South), is sometimes ice-free, depending on the summertime pack ice conditions.[3]

Important harbors

The tiny harbor at the village of Clovelly, Devon, England
Old Harbor in Lüneburg, Germany
The harbor of Piraeus in Greece
Port Jackson, Sydney
The harbor of Gorey, Jersey falls dry at low tide.
Punta del Este's harbor – nicknamed the Monte Carlo of South America[4][5][6]
The harbor in Aberystwyth, painted c. 1850

Although the world's busiest port is a contested title, in 2017 the world's busiest harbor by cargo tonnage was the Port of Ningbo-Zhoushan.[7]

The following are large natural harbors:

Port of Szczecin, Poland
Valparaíso, Chile

See also


  1. ^ "Geology 303 Ch 8 Los Angeles and Long Beach Harbors". Archived from the original on 2014-02-23. Retrieved 2014-01-21.
  2. ^ Hattendorf, John B. (2007), The Oxford encyclopedia of maritime history, Oxford University Press, p. 590, ISBN 978-0-19-513075-1
  3. ^ U.S. Polar Programs Archived 2021-10-11 at the Wayback Machine National Science Foundation FY2000.
  4. ^ "Circuit Guide | Punta del Este, Uruguay". FIA Formula E. Archived from the original on 2014-12-09. Retrieved 2014-08-24.
  5. ^ "Formula E reveals circuit for Punta del Este ePrix". FIA Formula E. 2014-06-20. Archived from the original on 2018-06-12. Retrieved 2014-08-24.
  6. ^ "Formula E unveils Punta del Este circuit in Uruguay". 2014-06-20. Archived from the original on 2017-06-29. Retrieved 2014-08-24.
  7. ^ "Global Port Development Annual Report (2017)". Archived from the original on 2021-01-08. Retrieved 2021-10-29.