Harwich (hărˈĭj) [key], town (1991 pop. 17,245), Essex, E central England, on the estuary of the Stour and the Orwell rivers. An important port, Harwich imports foodstuffs, iron and steel, and machinery; it exports chemicals and automobiles. In wartime it has been a naval base. Harwich serves as a port for passenger ships to Denmark, Germany, and Holland. There is also container-ship service from Harwich to Zeebrugge, Belgium. The town's other industries are boatbuilding, fishing, light engineering, and cement manufacture. An ancient town, Harwich was known in the Middle Ages for its port and had an important shipbuilding industry in the 17th cent.