The harbour has played an intrinsic role in the commercial success of the city that grew up around it over the past 881 years.
North Sea oil has ensured the Granite City’s strategic role in the fortunes of the Scottish and UK economies, however, it is only the most recent of a series of industries accommodated by the port. Fishing, shipbuilding, textiles and global transportation of stone from the city’s famous quarries have all relied on the facilities of this essential North Sea gateway.
The lives of generations of Aberdonians have been affected and shaped by the Harbour since King David I of Scotland granted the Bishops of Aberdeen the right to levy a tithe on all ships trading at the port, in 1136. This was the era of the Knights Templar, the Crusades; and this was still two centuries before King Robert the Bruce fought for the nation’s sovereignty at Battle of Bannockburn.
By Tudor times new trade links with Scandinavia and Baltic ports led to improvements in the port. The first cargo-handling crane was installed in 1582. This was followed in 1596 by the issue of a charter by King James VI to raise funds for improvements, which included a bulwark at Torry to help deepen the harbour entrance.
A blockhouse, or fort, was built in 1532 on the north side of the Harbour entrance, playing a role in perhaps deterring the Spanish Armada from landing in the North East in 1588.
The 1860 fortification at Torry Battery, which overlooks the southern approaches, illustrates the Harbour’s strategic importance.
The Harbour weathered extensive punishment during World War Two when it was a significant strategic target for enemy aircraft.
Since its inception, the Harbour has supported a fishing industry, which boomed with the introduction of the steam trawler in the 1880s. Aberdeen was also home to a major shipbuilding industry, which ended comparatively recently, in the 1990s.
The arrival of the offshore oil and gas industry in the mid-1960s however, marked the start of a period of intense modernisation within the footprint of the Harbour, a period in which it was virtually rebuilt. It has now been transformed into one of the most modern ports in Europe.
The evolution of Aberdeen as a world-class port continues to this day, and last year also saw the release of the Options for Growth and Directions for Growth documents, which outline how the story of the Harbour can enter a new era with the potential development at Nigg Bay. So the evolution of the port seems set to continue, adding another chapter to its incredible history to date.