Harbor: A Place of Shelter and Refuge


Harbor: A Place of Shelter and Refuge

A harbor is a place on the coast where ships can moor in shelter, especially one protected from rough water by piers, jetties, and other artificial structures. The word harbor comes from the Old English herebeorg, meaning “shelter, lodgings”. Harbors can also be natural or artificially constructed or improved. Harbors are important for trade, commerce, tourism, fishing, and naval activities.

Harbor can also be used as a verb, meaning to give shelter or refuge to someone or something. For example, one can harbor a fugitive, a grudge, a suspicion, or a germ. To harbor something means to keep it in one’s mind or body, usually secretly or persistently. Harboring can have positive or negative connotations, depending on the context and the object of the verb.

Harbors are often associated with safety, security, and comfort. They can provide a place of refuge for ships and people in times of storm or danger. They can also be places of beauty and interest, with picturesque views and diverse activities. Some famous harbors around the world include Sydney Harbour in Australia, Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong, Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, and New York Harbor in the United States.

Types of Harbors

Harbors can be classified into different types based on their physical position, their usage, and their construction. Based on their physical position, there are eight major types of harbors:

  • Open roadstead: a harbor with no natural or artificial protection. They are often built to accommodate very large ships (such as oil tankers) or are in a setting where there are limited tides, implying that sheltering infrastructure is much less required.
  • Coastal natural: a harbor that is sheltered by a natural feature of the coast, such as a cape, a reef, or an island.
  • Coastal breakwater: a harbor that lies behind an artificial breakwater construction, built from scratch or built to add to the existing natural shelter. It is particularly the case for harbors exposed to dominant winds, waves, or sea currents.
  • Coastal tide gates: a harbor that lies behind a set of locks or other mechanical devices that ensure sufficient water levels in the harbor for all tide levels. In many cases, ships can enter or exit the port only at certain times of the day when water levels are adequate.
  • River natural: a harbor that is located along a river where water is not retained by any artificial means. The harbor often consists of quays or wharves parallel to the river banks. Piers may also extend into the river.
  • River basins: a river harbor where basins have been excavated to accommodate ships, often parallel to the flow of the river. This confers the advantage of additional berth space without impeding fluvial navigation.
  • River tide gates: a river harbor that lies behind a set of locks or other mechanical devices that ensure sufficient water levels in the harbor for all tide levels. Such harbors tend to be located close to the ocean, such as in a river delta or estuary.
  • Canal or lake: a harbor that is located along an artificial canal or by a river accessible through a navigable waterway.

Based on their usage, there are five major types of harbors:

  • Commercial harbor: a harbor where loading and unloading of cargos are done. Commercial harbors require larger areas for speeding up the operations and they are the busiest among all types of harbors.
  • Fishery harbor: a harbor where fishing vessels can land and distribute their catch. Fishery harbors require facilities for storing, processing, and marketing fish and seafood products.
  • Military harbor: a harbor where naval ships and submarines can dock and refuel. Military harbors require high security and defense measures to protect them from enemy attacks.
  • Marine harbor: a harbor where marine research and exploration activities are conducted. Marine harbors require specialized equipment and vessels for studying the ocean and its resources.
  • Harbor of refuge: a harbor where ships and small craft can take shelter in case of emergency or bad weather. Harbors of refuge require minimal facilities but adequate depth and protection.

Based on their construction, there are two major types of harbors:

  • Natural harbor: a harbor that is formed by natural processes such as erosion, sedimentation, tectonic movements, or volcanic activity. Natural harbors may require some modifications or improvements to enhance their functionality and capacity.
  • Artificial harbor: a harbor that is entirely built by human intervention, such as dredging, land reclamation, breakwater construction, or lock installation. Artificial harbors may be more costly and complex to build but they can offer more flexibility and control over their design and operation.