Ports and Harbours

There are a variety of slightly different definitions of harbours used for different statutory purposes. The Harbours Act 1964 definitions of harbour and harbour authority may be summarised as follows:

The term harbour means any harbour, whether natural or artificial, and any port, haven, estuary, tidal or other river or inland waterway navigated by sea-going ships, and includes a dock, a wharf, and in Scotland a ferry or boat slip being a marine work.

A harbour authority is any person in whom are rested powers or duties of improving, maintaining or managing a harbour whether under the Harbours Act 1964 or other enabling Act, order or instrument.

Generally, the terms port and harbour are used interchangeably, for most purposes. In these guidelines they can be described and distinguished as follows:

Port is the commercial harbour or commercial part of a harbour in which are situated the quays, wharves, enclosed docks and facilities for working cargo, and operated by a statutory port operator.

Harbour is the stretch of water where vessels can anchor, secure to buoys or alongside wharves to obtain protection from sea and swell, the protection may be afforded by natural or artificial features.

There are many harbours which have no harbour authority. There are many harbours where there are two or more ports. Port limits (the limits of statutory control of a port or harbour authority) do not delimit the seaward extent of a natural harbour.

In terms of recreational use, the Yacht Harbour Association (1992) describes yacht harbours and marinas as follows:

A yacht harbour is a sheltered area permanently or regularly covered by water, suitable for the safe anchoring or mooring of pleasure craft.

A marina is a facility for the berthing of pleasure craft, providing direct walkway to each boat and the required amenities.

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