First of all, sorry for my english.
I would like to see that this this game is more realistic because war was something that you won if you made small victories each day. Captains should earn prestige doing things useful for their nation. Now, you can be doing missions against the AI, earning money, xp an combat marks and becoming a "Jefe de Escuadra" without being useful for your nation. Combat orders should be for beginners and after that, the combat orders should affect to campaign map. For example, go to Nassau and attack that fort, or attack their traders so they will not have enough food, money, resources for war. Or "go to Nassau to bring food because someone has been attacking our traders" I mean, missions that were on curriculum vitae of most good sailors as Blas de Lezo or Nelson.
I would give money, prestige (combat marks) and experience if you go to port battles or you do missions useful for your nation as it was in history. For example, players that could get soldiers (there should be small transport ships to conquer ports with a flag and soldiers) that you have to protect them till they reach a beach close to one port which is being attacked during, for example, 48 hours. Now you attack just if you make hostility missions and enemy cannot stop warming. It would be nice that you could warm ports by yourself, as before or you could stop the warming repairing forts transporting there engineers or transporting the things that were stolen by the enemy. After an attack, clans should repair forts, farms and cities and build trader ships to defend the economy and the port.
History show us that most of captains had to go with a message to one port, attack one fort, or transport gunpowder, food or troops to a city which was besieged.
There are different kinds of players: traders, corsairs (or pvp players) or war players (port battles...) In my opinión, if you want to be a trader, you will be very important because the nation needs things and you will earn a lot of money. When you want to be corsair you could be any time, you just have to get the permit from the King. With a 5th rate ship you got enough.
But if you are interested on being a "Jefe de Escuadra" you should go to port battles or help cities being attacked, or attack forts, ships of an area. You would earn prestige to have a First Rate ship. Now everyone can be "Jefe de Escuadra" without fighting in port battles. In real life there were only 15 or 20 first rates by the way. Clan could repair cities, build farms, repair and build forts or pay soldiers to maintain ports but they will be expensive if you have to put a lot of soldiers there and you will have to transport. Even a single player could help, creating or maintaining a small village or one fort. Ports should be conquered by cutting their supplies, transporting soldiers, destroying or conquering forts with marines and attacking the fleet that defends that port. But now ports are too expensive, you can be earning money playing against AI. If you want to have a good artillery oficer, or good upgrades, or good sailers, you should help your country in the war. Now just doing missions you get anything so port battles are dead and pvp is not as common as before. Trade should be as before, so indiamans are useful.
The protection area should be just for beginners, which are learning. Not for a "Jefe de Escuadra". I know that is a game and everyone can have the chance of using any ship but it is not realistic any more and it is getting boring. Why should i go to a port battle or sink to another player if i can have the same or more money, xp or combat marks sinking AI ships in combat orders? My advice, be realistic. By the way, why not a European map, Russia, Poland and Prussia (plus Turkey, algerian pirates, italian states...etc) could be on war without changing history. Thanks anyway. Sorry for my english. I used to love this game but now me and my clan mates, we are all getting bored.