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Why Is It Called Port And Starboard?

Ever wondered why the terms “Port” and “Starboard” are used to denote Left and Right side on ships? Well, we wondered and went on to find the answer for you. Read on to know the interesting story behind it…

During earlier days, boats/ships used to have rudders on their centre line. Boats/ Ships were controlled using a steering oar. As it is very common that most of the people are right handed in the world. Similarly most of the sailors were right handed, so the steering oar used to control the ship was placed over or through the right side of the stern.

Thus most of the sailors used to call the right side as the “Steering Side”, which soon became “Starboard”. The word “Starboard” is formed by combining two old words: stéor (meaning “steer”) and bord (meaning “the side of a boat”). As the size of ships grew, so did the steering oar, making it much easier to make fast a ship to a dock on the side opposite the oar. This side was known as “larboard”, or “the loading side.” As the time passed, it became evident that “larboard” is very easily confused with “starboard” during communications. Hence it was replaced with the word “port” as this was the side that faced the port, allowing cargo to be loaded or discharged. That is how the terms “Port” and “Starboard” came in existence. Since “Port” and “Starboard” never change. They are unambiguous references that are independent of a mariner’s orientation. Thus removing the chances of any ambiguity. Hence Sailors prefer to use these nautical terms instead of left and right to avoid confusion.


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