For thousands of years, harbours and ports have been of central importance to civilizations. The trade of goods by sea has been vital to the development of nations and of empires.
The idea of running away to sea on a tramp steamer is still strong, though it is probable accurate to say that idea is more appealing than the fact. In a world of the internet and international on-line shopping, of smart phones and instantaneous contact with any place on the planet, a slower pace of life epitomised by large ships and captured so wonderfully in the novels of Joseph Conrad and the documentaries of Michael Palin still resonate with many people.
Every port is a node in a complex network of ocean routes which connect each port with every other. Even with modern transport most of the goods and raw materials traded throughout the world pass through ocean ports.
No one can deny the romance of the ocean. Standing on a sea wall and watching a ship move into a harbour from the open ocean, to see it tie up at a wharf and unload its containers that were packed in London, New York, Hong Kong or Vladivostok, can still give me a thrill that is difficult to pin down.