Territory capture is exactly what you are thinking right now. Player nations can conquer territory for both bragging rights and (more importantly) resource control. The devs said that these territory squabbles have the potential to blow up into large-scale PvP conflicts. The game also added "about 50%" more size in the latest patch, with some of that being shoreline and sea. As such, players can now board and use ships to travel the ocean.
We've got a look at both territory control battles and a couple of the new ships in the gallery below.