The geography of seaports can be considered from four dimensions:
- Location. The port site refers to its physical characteristics, such as a bay, access channels, and depth. The port location refers to the position of the port in relation to its hinterland and foreland, including major maritime shipping routes. A site is usually a static characteristic, while the situation can evolve according to commercial and trade developments. A port has a scale related to its size and the amount of traffic it handles, which is constrained by the site.
- Operations. Handling traffic is the core function of a port, which has a defined capacity related to its infrastructures and storage. Some ports are more efficient than others in terms of their traffic turnover, such as how much time it takes to handle a specific amount of cargo.
- Governance. Ports are managed and under the jurisdiction of an entity such as a port authority. Ownership is usually public, while operations are usually private.
- Function. Ports can handle a wide variety of cargoes or can be specialized to handle only of few commodities, such as minerals and energy. Large ports tend to be polyfunctional, while smaller ports tend to be monofunctional.