Although the words have been used interchangeably, a dock and wharf are two different things. The big misconception is that a dock is the platform you stand on when that is actually a wharf. To understand the differences between the two, it’s easier to look at the two terms on their own.
What is a Wharf?
A wharf is a man-made landing place for ships on a shore where vessels can load and unload cargo or passengers. Wharfs would have one or more mooring locations for boats to dock and perform their duties. They are also considered to be the actual structure that you stand or walk on above the water.
What is a Dock?
In most cases, a dock is an extension along a shoreline of a body of water where boats are moored. In other cases, docks are considered to be the area in the water where vessels are tied up; similar to a parking spot in the water. The reference to a dock being an actual structure depends on where a person is from or their knowledge on marine structures. A builder or dock worker may not refer to a dock in the previous way.
Why is there confusion?
If the average person were to research a few marine construction terms such as pier, dock, or wharf, they would possibly become confused. These terms are used interchangeably, described as a structure that extends over water used for walking or docking boats. However, each word has its own meaning that shows clear differences between them all.