You probably use the words dock and pier interchangeably. However, did you know that docks and piers are technically two different marine structures?

It depends on who you are talking with, as American and British English speakers use the terms dock and pier differently. Some professional US seafarers also consider distinct functional differences between these marine structures.

Understanding the differences between these words is vital before starting a pier or dock construction project. As it helps determine which of these structures suits your needs.

So, read on to know more about docks and piers.

How US Seafarers Use the Words Dock and Pier

Docks and piers are seemingly identical marine structures made from hardwood, steel, composites, or concrete.

However, these have specific functions for seafarers. Docks are for anchoring marine vessels like ships, while piers serve as buffers between the land and water. Some sailors say that docks are the parking lots for their ships, while piers are the sidewalk.

For example, dock construction on your lakefront property lets you have a place for anchoring or tying your boat. And the pier is the structure where you can walk from your property to the lake.

How British English Speakers Use the Terms Docks and Piers

While seafarers consider some differences between docks and piers, most American English speakers think the two structures are the same. 

The thing is that British English speakers also have different definitions for docks and piers.

What are Piers

Piers are the usual structures you see jutting out from the bay to the deeper parts of the water. These are elongated platforms supported by pilings and pillars partially submerged underwater and made of concrete, hardwood, or steel.

Its primary purpose is to make marine vessels like ships and boats accessible for passengers and cargo. Marine crafts cannot reach shallower water near the coast, so piers act as bridges to facilitate loading and unloading.

However, some pier types serve other purposes too.

Working Piers

As described above, this pier type makes marine vessels accessible for passengers and cargo. You commonly see them in seaports where you walk on them to reach your ship.

This purpose makes it crucial for working piers to have a strong, durable, and solid foundation to prevent collapse. Thus, most working piers are concrete, as it is a durable material that doesn’t rot or rust.

Fishing Piers

These piers have unique features that cater to fishing activities.

For example, this pier could reach ideal deeper water so you can fish by sitting right on the platform. Other fishing piers also have spots for cleaning or gutting freshly caught fish.

Pleasure Piers

Pleasure piers are primarily for recreational purposes and often have luxury features like walls and roofing. They also accommodate recreational marine vessels like private pleasure yachts.

What are Docks

For British English speakers, a dock is an enclosed area that separates a marine vessel from a body of water. It features wall structures that prevent strong waves from reaching the marine craft, thus keeping it stable while being stationed for:

  • Repair
  • Maintenance
  • Construction
  • Loading and unloading

For example, a sailor crew could perform safe and efficient maintenance if their ship is in the dock. The dock walls will block strong water currents, thus keeping the craft afloat but steady through the procedure.

Now, there are two primary dock types:

Wet Docks

As described above, this type refers to marine vessel parking areas with wall structures near the bay. It blocks strong water current, thus safely protecting stationed crafts inside.

Moreover, the walls retain the water inside and prevent water levels from rising and falling with the tide.

Dry Docks

Dry docks are similar to their wet counterpart, but they can drain the water out if necessary.

This function is helpful for particular maintenance, repairs, or construction procedures. And dry docks also have additional features to handle marine vessels with or without water.

Hire a Marine Contractor for Your Pier or Dock Construction

As you can see, piers and docks have different functions, features, and structures.

You may need a simple place to anchor your boat or space between your property and the water. However, you may also need an elaborate structure depending on your purpose, like having a particular pier or dock type.

You thus have to decide which one fits your purpose to plan for your project. Consulting a pier and dock construction contractor will help you know the best for your situation.


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