A new era for Aberdeen harbour
I have written previously in the pages of Sea Breezes about the evolution of ports over the years, particularly some of Britain’s most historic ports which in recent decades have become hubs for business and residential development. One of the ports closest to my heart – Aberdeen in the North East corner of Scotland – is currently the location of one of the most exciting port developments of modern times, and the £350m project to expand the harbour to the south of the city is very much driven by matters marine rather than other commercial development considerations.
While the history of Aberdeen harbour is to be cherished, the constraints of its operating environment have become clear in recent years with the growth in size of cargo vessels, ferries and cruise ships. Founded by royal charter in 1136, and claiming to be Britain’s oldest existing business, the Harbour Board acknowledged the need many years ago for massive investment to create a new “Aberdeen South” harbour in Nigg Bay. After a prolonged period of planning and public consultation, the project is underway and targeted for completion in 2020. The scale of the project is huge with a local facility being set up to produce 9,000 accropode blocks to form the outer armours of the new breakwaters.
Four new quays are being constructed in the new harbour facility with depths of up to 10.5m, and with a nod to local heritage and landmarks, these were recently named Crathes, Balmoral, Dunnottar and Castlegate. There is particular excitement about the new facilities unlocking expansion in the cruise sector – offering a huge potential boost to tourism in the North East of Scotland which abounds with castles, malt whisky distilleries and mountains (the Cairngorms).
For me, my first memories of Aberdeen date back to the 1950s (I grew up about 50 miles away). In those days, it was a hive of activity in the fishing sector and also renowned for a rich shipbuilding tradition with famed shipyards such as Hall Russell. Over time, those industries receded and were replaced by business from the burgeoning North Sea oil sector from the 1970s onwards. That particular sector has seen its own challenges in recent times, so the Harbour Board’s vote of confidence in the future of the harbour is to be applauded.
I also noted recently that even within the confines of its current facilities, the harbour recently handled its largest ever visitor – the Kingfisher, a general cargo vessel at 166m long. The world of shipping keeps moving on, and despite being almost 900 years old, Aberdeen harbour seems well positioned to keep moving with it.
HAMISH ROSS, EDITOR