How long does a ship stay in a port? (Explained)

It depends on the types of ship and port conditions, the time varies greatly. The standard time for a ship to stay in a port is between 12 to 24 hours.

Why do ships need to stay in a port?

The major reason why ships stay in a port is loading and unloading cargo and passengers. Sometimes the ships also add fuel, do some ship repairs, sign in, and sign off of seamen at ports.

What are the different types of ports?

Basically, there are 5 different types of ports: seaport, fishing port, inland port, warm-water port, and dry port

  • A seaport is a port located on the shore of the sea or ocean
    • cargo port, cruise home port all belong to the seaport
  • A fishing port is a port or harbor focused on fish distribution
  • An inland port is a port located on a lake or river that has access to the ocean
  • A warm-water port is a port where the water does not freeze in winter
    • the warm-water port can operate year around so it is very important for economic interest
  • A dry port is an inland intermodal terminal connecting by road or rail

What are the top 10 busiest ports in the world?

Based on the below 10 ports are the busiest seaport based on cargo tonnage in the year 2019.

Port of Ningbo in China

Port of Shanghai in China

Port of Tangshan in China

Port of Singapore

Port of Guangzhou in China

Port of Qingdao in China

Port of Suzhou in China

Port Hedland in Australia

Port of Tianjin in China

Port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands

Why do ships stay outside of port?

The common reason for ships waiting outside of port is port congestion. Ships have to wait for berthing space to discharge their cargo or take on new cargo.

Sometimes tidal conditions or weather such as heavy fog make it difficult for ships to get in port so they will stay outside of port for a while until the conditions get better.

Ships that stay outside of port can also be their need of fuel, ship maintenance, or repairs.

In a few cases where ships have to stay outside of port because of customs or security reasons, the ship will be on hold until everything gets cleared.

How long do container ships stay at the port?

On average container ships stay at the port between 12 to 24 hours.

Container ships are running on a tight schedule, so they only stay at the port as short as they can. The route of container ships is well planned, so this also helps them to speed up at the port.

Many container ships have several cranes on board, so they offload their containers quite quickly. Container ships are probably the ships that stay at the port shortest among other cargo ships.

How long does the cargo ship stay at the port?

Depending on the ship size, the cargo it carries, and the port situation, the time a cargo ship stays at the port varies. The ship does not make any money and pours out money when it is sitting in port, so ship owners want the ship stays at the port as short as possible.

RORO ships can offload their cargo fast. Usually, RORO ships transport cars, farm machinery, or equipment on wheels. Crews can drive the cars off the ship. RORO ships have very short turns around 12 to 18 hours.

Tanker ships stay at the port between 15-24 hours. LNG ships stay at the port for around 20 hours.

Break bulk or dry bulk cargo ships takes a longer time to offload and load, so this kind of cargo ship stays at port for several days or several weeks.

How do ships get in and out of the port?

It is a challenging job to get ships in and out of the port, especially big cargo ships like container ships. It usually takes several hours to dock a ship.

When a cargo ship is approaching the port, a marine pilot will get aboard to guide the ship. When the ship is getting close to wharves, several tug boats come in and either pull or push the heavier ships into port.

Big ships might hit the ramp or other ships in a crowded port if they dock without guidance or help. It is common to see tugboats everywhere at the port to help ships in and out of the place.

Here is a good video to show how to dock a container ship

Are the crews of ships allowed to leave the ship when they reach a port?

Generally, yes. The captain would grant a shore leave after the ship completes cargo offload and loading.

Since most ships stay at the port only as long as needed so port stays are usually short from several hours to a couple of days, so there is not much time for crews to spend ashore.

As seamen, they must carry a C.D.C (continuous discharge certificate) card to be able to work on a ship. Crews can go to ashore in most foreign countries with a C.D.C card and passport.

On average, crews on cargo ships can get half-day of shore leave, so crews can get on shore to have lunch or dinner and shop for personal things.

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