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What's Up Dock

Aug 17, 2007
A dock is an area of water found between two piers or alongside a pier. Docks are also used to build or repair ships and to load and unload commercial ships and ferries.

A dockyard is one or more docks and their structures. Docks can be emptied of water and turned into dry docks. All parts of a ship can then be inspected and repaired here.

In everyday American English, the words dock and pier are synonymous - any man made structure in the water which people can be on.

However, strictly speaking, a pier is generally used to refer to structures that were intended only for industrial use, such as seafood processing or shipping, and more recently for cruise ships.

Docks, technically speaking, are used for other purposes other than those just mentioned. The term for the water area between piers is slip.

Dockyards and shipyards are places in which ships can be built or repaired. These can be yachts, military vessels, cruise liners or other cargo or passenger ships.

Dockyards are usually associated more with the maintenance, and repair as compared to a shipyard which is associated with the initial building of a ship.

However, the terms are routinely used interchangeably. This is partly due to the evolution of the use of dockyards and shipyards.

Countries such as South Korea, Japan and China are known for having big ship building industries. The ship building industry tends to be more fragmented in Europe than in Asia.

Europe has more shipbuilding companies than Asia, but these companies tend to be smaller than their Asian counterparts.

The ship builders found in the United States are usually privately owned. The largest shipbuilder in the States is Northrop Grumman, a multi-billion dollar defense contractor. The publicly owned shipyards in the US are Naval facilities providing basing, support and repair.

Docks have been around for as long as man has been coursing the seas of the world. In the United Kingdom, for example, docks such as Wollwich and Deptford were built on the River Thames in 1512 and 1513.

Other notable docks include the River Mersey, River Tyne, River Wear and River Clyde. Sir Alfred Yarrow established his yard by the Thames in London's Docklands in the late 19th century before moving it northwards to the banks of the Clyde at Scotstoun (1906-08).

Other famous UK docks include the Harland and Wolff yard in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where the Titanic was launched, and the naval dockyard at Chatham, England on the Medway in north Kent.

After a ship's useful life is over, it makes one final voyage to a shipbreaking yard. Often times this is one the shipyards found in South Asia.

Historically speaking, shipbreaking was carried on in a drydock in developed countries. High wages and environmental regulations; however, have resulted in movement of the industry to newly developing regions.

Historically, ships were the first items to be produced in a factory. The Venice Arsenal in Italy was known for its early version of the assembly line and was able to produce one ship per day. This was even before the Industrial Revolution in the 1900's. At its peak, the Arsenal employed more than 16,000 workers and craftsmen.

Docks have always been the lifeblood of inter-country trade and migration. Before the advent of modern air travel, cities with docks became rich because of the trade they generated.

Today, sea travel and trade remain strong. Dock still serve the same purpose as they had all these years. Although, they are no longer connected to the romantic trade dreams of the 1600's, they still provide livelihood and trade to the many countries that employ sea trade.
About the Author
James Monahan is the owner and Senior Editor of
DockGuide.com and writes expert
articles about docks .
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