Ports are constructed waterfront locations for the exchange of cargo and/or otherwise with capability to receive ships. Busy, dangerous or high-capacity ports may also provide pilot service. Ships entering a countries ports or surrounding waters are subject to port state regulations (a set of regulations similar, but often more relaxed, than flag state regulations; to which foreign vessels will be held).
The shore will have facilities for ship handling, such as docks, piers, jetties, marinas,slipways, quays, or wharves. There will also be cargo handling equipment, either in the form of a transportation link out (road, rail) or dedicated shore-based cranes, warehouses, storage yards, etc.
Ports are almost exclusively situated in harbours.
When designing a vessel, it is important to know the ports the vessel is intended to operate within. The vessels cargo handling facilities must be appropriate for the loading and unloading of cargo as required. The vessel will have to meet port state regulations (as noted above). There may be restrictions on the vessels use of fuel or discharges due to environmental concerns. Ports will have limitations on length, beam and draught which can be docked. The mooring arrangement needs to be compatible to shore facilities. Shore power connections will have to be compatible (if to be used). Facilities for loading & unloading passengers (such as Ro-Ro ramps or cruise-ship passenger bridges) should be considered. Environmental conditions, such as ice levels and tides should be known, as the vessel may need an ice class or have further draught restrictions.