This article discusses the meanings and applications of the rubric hydrocolonialism. Starting with a South African poem as an example, the piece sets out a definition of the term before outlining the existing literary scholarship that could fall under its umbrella. The article then turns to discuss hydrocolonial book history and what we might learn by tracing books on their oceanic journeys. One important node in these journeys was the port city, where customs and excise officials examined texts to see whether they were pirated, seditious, or obscene. These inspectors in effect functioned as censors and adjudicators of copyright. The article examines how these protocols worked in practice and concludes by discussing this dockside mode of reading as a hydrocolonial literary formation.