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A wharf is a landing place or pier where ships may tie up and load or unload.

A wharf commonly comprises a fixed platform, often on pilings. They often serve as interim storage areas with warehouses, since the typical objective is to unload and reload vessels as quickly as possible. Where capacity is sufficient a single quay constructed along the land adjacent to the water is normally used; where there is a need for more capacity many wharves will instead be constructed projecting into the water, as with the well known collection of wharves in San Franciscomarker. A pier, raised over the water rather than within it, is one type of wharf, commonly used for cases where the weight or volume of cargos will be low.

Smaller and more modern wharves are sometimes built on flotation devices (pontoons) to keep them at the same level to the ship even during changing tides.

Well-known wharves


The word comes from the Old English hwearf, meaning "bank" or "shore", and its plural is either wharfs, or, especially in American English, wharves; collectively a group of these is referred to as a wharfing or wharfage. "Wharfage" also refers to a fee ports impose on ships against the amount of cargo handled there.

In the northeast and east of England the term staithe or staith (from the Norse for landing stage) is also used. For example Dunston Staithsmarker in Gatesheadmarker and Brancaster Staithemarker in Norfolk. Though the term staithe may be used to refer only to loading chutes or ramps used for bulk commodities like coal in loading ships and barges.It has been suggested that wharf actually is an acronym for ware-house at river front, but this is a backronym, spread around as a fact by "tour guides" on Thames river boats.

Another explanation may be that the word wharf comes, like a lot of naval terms, from the dutch word "werf" which means 'yard', an outdoor place where work is done, like a shipyard or a lumberyard.


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