What Color Is Port Side on a Cruise Ship?

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If you’re a cruise or maritime enthusiast, you may get excited about learning the different terminology and processes that go into the operation of a cruise ship.

You may have already heard of the term “port side,” but do you know what it means? Are you wondering about the significance of the colors on the ship? If so, keep reading to learn what color is port and other port facts.

What Is Port?

Before getting into the color of port, let’s first make sure you know exactly what the port side on a cruise is

Put simply, the port side is the ship’s left side when you’re looking forward or toward the front part of the ship. In contrast, the right side is referred to as starboard. 

For the captain and crew, port side is used in navigation and making sure there is no confusion with the starboard side. While this makes the name self-explanatory, referring to this side as port side is mainly to differentiate it from the other side of the ship, and ensure that everyone onboard understands what this universal term means. 

What Color Is the Port Side?

In addition to having different names for the left and right side of the ship, there are also different color navigation lights associated with each side.

Red Port Side Light on Ship
Red Port Side Light on Ship (Photo Credit: Richard Nantais / Shutterstock)

The port side of the ship is red. The starboard side is green. Ships often emit a red light to allow other vessels at sea to clearly see them coming and letting them know in what direction they are traveling.

What Does the Port Color Mean?

As mentioned, the port color of a ship is red. The main reason for this is for others to see the ship at night or in low visibility.

Since these color conventions are universal, a ship that spots the colors of another ship will have an idea of whether the ship is coming towards them or going the opposite way based on the position of the color. 

These nautical terms and the overall system are set by the International Maritime Organization. This system makes it easier for captains to navigate the water, and minimizes the risk of accidents at sea. 

Port Color FAQs

Is the port color universal for all cruise lines?

The port color is universal not only for all cruise ships, but for every maritime vessel across the globe. This ensures that safety standards are clear across the waters to prevent accidents from happening.

How do I know if a port is arriving or departing a port of call?

You’ll be able to tell whether a ship is arriving or departing a port of call based on how it moves. Either way, from the dock, you’ll always see the red. Following the color will help you see whether the ship is coming or going.

Summary: Know the Colors of Your Ship

To recap, the color of a cruise ship’s port side (or left-hand side) is red to let other ships on the water know which direction the ship is coming from.

Read Also: Port and Starboard: Which Side Is Which?

Understanding the port side may not be crucial to enjoying your cruise, but it’s great to know if you’re curious and interested in ships in general. Knowing the color of the port side is a great piece of trivia to tell your friends and family on your next cruise!

Emrys Thakkar
Emrys Thakkar
The founder of Cruise Hive which was established in 2008 as one of the earliest cruise blogs in the industry. Emrys has been reporting on the latest cruise industry news since the site first launched. Expert insights and tips featured on a number of publications including The Express, Business Insider, and more. Worked for Carnival Cruise Line for 8 years and is well and truly dedicated to cruising! Has also been on a number of cruises so can offer an insight into the industry that many will not be able to do. What's even more impressive is that Emrys has traveled the world by visiting more than 34 countries, lived in China for 8 years, and cruised the Caribbean, Baltic, Mediterranean, Asia, and Europe. Find out more about us here.


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