Abstract Seaports are complex and dynamic entities, often dissimilar from each other, where various activities are carried out by and for the account of different actors and organisations. Such a multifaceted situation has led to a variety of operational, organisational and strategic management approaches to port systems. It is noticeable in the current body of port literature that the conceptualisation of the port business has taken place at different disciplinary levels without producing a comprehensive and structured port management discipline. Much of the current literature on ports has been developed by international organisations and institutions in the field (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), World Bank Group, etc.) and a resulting terminology has evolved depicting specific concepts hardly understood by professionals and academics outside the field. On the other hand, many areas of port operations and management still remain unexplored, and there are few academic references outlining the different features of operational and strategic management in ports. This paper examines the validity of the conventional terminology for classifying ports, questioning the assumption that ports should be conceptualised as separate markets and distinct operational and business ventures. It seeks to demonstrate that in today’s inter-related global markets and businesses with integrated logistics and supply chain flows, there is less of a case for the traditionally isolated and restricted port terminology.