What is a Dockyard?

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  • Written By: Phil Shepley
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 05 April 2020
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A dockyard is an area that is designated for building, repairing, outfitting, and maintaining boats, ships, and other seabound vessels. One may be built on land as well as on any body of water, and can be used by the military, a private party, a corporation, or can be used by the public, often at a predetermined monetary rate. The term shipyard can mean the same thing, but often refers specifically to the area being used for repairs. Dockyard is more commonly used in the United Kingdom, where it refers to a navy yard. The terms are often used interchangeably, however.

Specialized equipment needs to be built where shipyards exist, which is designed to aid in the transportation of boats and parts, as well as to help in the construction process of new vessels. Cranes are often found near a dockyard for this purpose, which can be floating or located on the land with access over the water. Ships and boats are typically brought on the land by way of a slipway, which is an incline built from the water to the land. Often, giant enclosures must also exist where large vessels can be worked on, especially painted, without interference from inclement weather.


Most large dockyards around the world are owned by private companies and contractors who build and maintain ships for military naval purposes. Public shipyards that are made to create and maintain military ships can also be controlled, funded, and operated by the government of the country in which they are located. A dockyard is typically used, however, for civilian and government-controlled vessels.

A dockyard that exists on land is called a dry dock, and is necessary when the ships are initially being built. This type of dock must also be used when the repairs to a sea vessel exist below the waterline of the boat where sea-based repairs would not be possible. Another type of dry dock is a graving dock, which resembles a large walled pool. A large ship is brought into a graving dock, and once secured, the water can be drained from around it so that the proper repairs may be made. Water-based dockyards that can be transported through the water are referred to as floating docks, and are essential when boats need to be repaired near the place they are used, as in naval battles. Finally, when ships are broken down or no longer needed, they are sent to a similar facility known as a shipbreaking yard, where they are dismantled and the parts are either recycled or scrapped.


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