Source: Expanded from the American Association of Port Authorities. Based on a sample of the world’s largest ports in terms of tonnage. N=156.
Port sites have been the subject of geographical considerations, with a preference for sites combining a good maritime profile with inland accessibility. There is a vast array of port sites linked to specific nautical profiles, which are articulated around seaports and mainland ports:
- Seaports. These ports have direct access to the sea and try to take advantage of a local geographical feature. This can involve (A) bays or direct coastline, and (B) natural harbors, or protected locations. These sites are often associated with a lateral expansion of the port facilities, often towards locations with a deeper nautical profile.
- Mainland Ports. These ports are linked to a major river, which often serves a vast hinterland. There are ports in (C) an estuary, (D) a delta, and (E) along a river, often at the furthest point of inland navigation. These sites are associated with an upstream expansion of port facilities.
The above map provides a sample representative of the largest port facilities and their sites. The most common sites are those in bays or by the coastline (50%), followed by natural harbors (20%). This underlines the importance of maritime accessibility for the world’s largest ports. The remaining 30% involves ports located along river systems. Since the sample concerns larger ports, mainland ports tend to be less represented due to lower drafts.