Port of Barrow

Port of Barrow
The Port of Barrow as seen from Walney Island in August, 2007
The Princess Selandia is an entertainment ship permanently berthed in Buccleuch Dock

The Port of Barrow refers to the enclosed dock system within the town of Barrow-in-Furness, England. Morecambe Bay is to the east of the port and the Irish Sea surrounds it to the south and west. The port is currently owned and operated by Associated British Ports Holdings although some land is also shared with BAE Systems Submarine Solutions, currently consisting of four large docks, the Port of Barrow is one of North West England's most important ports. The docks are as follows: Buccleuch Dock, Cavendish Dock, Devonshire Dock and Ramsden Dock. The port of Barrow is the country's only deep water port between the Mersey and the Clyde.[1]

Barrow shipyard is one of the largest in the United Kingdom (having constructed well over 800 vessles in its history), rivalled only by that in Govan. It is also home to the country's only submarine production facility. The port of Barrow itself is heaily involved with the transportation of natural gases and other forms of energy from local sites such as Sellafield, Barrow Offshore Windfarm, Ormonde Wind Farm, Rampside Gas Terminal and Roosecote Power Station. Barrow is also coming increasingly popular as a port of call for cruise liners visiting the town and the Lake District.[2] James Fisher & Sons are the main company to operate out of the port.



The Port of Barrow and the town's shipyard circa. 1890

Barrow has a long and complex history of shipbuilding and trade via the sea. In the late 19th century, the town was home to the largest steelworks on earth and the Port of Barrow was the primary location used to transport the steel produced in the town.[3] Historically, the Port of Barrow and BAE cover a large area, resulting in Barrow being one of the country's largest shipbuilding centres. Hundreds of warships, aircraft carriers, cruise liners, ferries and submarines have been constructed in Barrow, which to this day remains the only operational submarine production facility in the UK.[4] The port's busiest year occurred in 1956, when 1,155,076 tonnes of iron ore alone were exported.[5]

In 1839 Henry Schneider arrived at Barrow-in-Furness as a young speculator and dealer in iron, and he discovered large deposits of haematite in 1850. He and other investors founded the Furness Railway, the first section of which opened in 1846 to transport the ore from the slate quarries at Kirkby-in-Furness and haematite mines at Lindal-in-Furness to a deep water harbour near Roa Island.[6] The docks built between 1867 and 1881 in the more sheltered channel between the mainland and Barrow Island replaced the port at Roa Island. The increasing quantities of iron ore mined in Furness were then brought to Barrow to be transported by sea. The sheltered strait between Barrow and Walney Island was an ideal location for the shipyard. The first ship to be built, the Jane Roper, was launched in 1852; the first steamship, a 3,000-ton liner named Duke of Devonshire, in 1873. Shipbuilding activity increased, and on 18 February 1871 the Barrow Shipbuilding Company was incorporated. Barrow's relative isolation from the United Kingdom's industrial heartlands meant that the newly formed company included several capabilities that would usually be subcontracted to other establishments. In particular, a large engineering works was constructed including a foundry and pattern shop, a forge, and an engine shop. In addition, the shipyard had a joiners' shop, a boat-building shed and a sailmaking and rigging loft.[7]

The Barrow Shipbuilding Company was taken over by the Sheffield steel firm of Vickers in 1897, by which time the shipyard had surpassed the railway and steelworks as the largest employer and landowner in Barrow. The company constructed Vickerstown, modelled on George Cadbury's Bournville, on the adjacent Walney Island in the early 20th century to house its employees.[8] It also commissioned Sir Edwin Lutyens to design Abbey House as a guest house and residence for its managing director, Commander Craven.[9] By the 1890s the shipyard was heavily engaged in the construction of warships for the Royal Navy and also for export. The Royal Navy's first submarine, Holland 1, was built in 1901,[10] and by 1914 the UK had the most advanced submarine fleet in the world, with 94% of it constructed by Vickers. Well-known ships built in Barrow include the Mikasa, Japanese flagship during the 1905 Russo-Japanese War, the liner SS Oriana and the aircraft carriers HMS Invincible and HMAS Melbourne. During World War II, Barrow was a target for the German air force looking to disable the town's shipbuilding capabilities (see Barrow Blitz).[11] Barrow's industry continued to supply the war effort, with Winston Churchill visiting the town on one occasion to launch the aircraft carrier HMS Indomitable.[12] After a rapid decline in the town's steelworks industry, shipbuilding quickly became Barrow's largest and most important industry. From the 1960s onwards it concentrated its efforts in submarine manufacture, and the UK's first nuclear-powered submarine, HMS Dreadnought was constructed in 1960. HMS Resolution, the Swiftsure-class, Trafalgar-class and Vanguard-class submarines all followed.

The end of the Cold War in 1991 marked a reduction in the demand for military ships and submarines, and the town continued its decline. The shipyard's dependency on military contracts at the expense of civilian and commercial engineering and shipbuilding meant it was particularly hard hit as government defence spending was reduced dramatically.[13] As a result, the workforce shrank from 14,500 in 1990 to 5,800 in February 1995.[14] The rejection by the VSEL management of detailed plans for Barrow's industrial renewal in the mid-to-late 1980s remains controversial.[15] This has led to renewed academic attention in recent years to the possibilities of converting military-industrial production in declining shipbuilding areas to the offshore renewable energy sector.[16]

The port today

A map of the port of Barrow
Many of the tenements built in the late 1800's on Barrow Island for dock workers are listed buildings

Exports and imports

The port of Barrow itself has seen a significant decrease on trade since steel production in the town halted. Despite this, numerous local businesses heavily rely on the port to import and export necessary goods.[2] Some 41,000 tonnes of woodpulp are now received by the port annually from Flushing, Netherlands this then transported to the larger Kimberly-Clark plant in Ormsgill. The port of Barrow also exports locally quarried limestone to parts of Scandinavia to be used in the paper industry and in the production of industrial gases. There is also a well established rail link which was originally built as part of the Furness Line.[2]

The port plays a major role in the regions energy production.[17] British Gas Hydrocarbon Resources Limited operates a condensate-storage site in Ramsden Dock, through which the liquid by-product of gas production at the nearby Rampside Gas Terminal is exported.[2] The PNTL vessel Pacific Heron is based at the port of Barrow, and is used to transport nuclear material between nearby Sellafield and Japan.[18] The port also played an important role in the construction of the Barrow Offshore Wind Farm, which was completed in 2006. Resources and materials were stored at the dock before being shipped to the windfarm's site on Morecambe Bay. The turbines and energy produced are still strongly associated with the port.[17] There are 20 hectares of storage space within the port owned by Associated British Port.[19] They also own a multi-purpose vessel, the Furness Abbey which is available for hire and is suitable for a range of tasks.[19] Despite numerous cranes being located across Barrow's dockland, the majority are owned by BAE and ABP only operates one 120-tonne quayside crane.[19] The maximum length, beam and draught of vessles that can dock in Barrow are 200m by 35m and 10m respectively.[19]

Significant exports
Material/ Product Annual amount handled Notes
Nuclear material, oil, gas and renewable energy [17]
Limestone and granite [17]
Significant imports
Material/ Product Annual amount handled Notes
Granite, sand and aggregates 100,000+ tonnes [20]
Wood pulp 41,000 tonnes [20]

Cruise ships

The Tahitian Princess visited Barrow in 2009

Although Barrow itself has relatively few tourist spots (albeit Furness Abbey, South Lakes Wild Animal Park and the Dock Museum), its proximity to the world famous Lake District has led to Barrow being nicknamed The Gateway to the Lakes. Barrow is the principal port serving Cumbria and the Lake District, and has served as a port of call for numerous cruise ships over recent years.[2] A new purpose built cruise ship terminal alongside Walney Channel has been proposed as part of th multi-million pound waterfront development which is explained further under the 'future' heading.

Cruise ships that have called at the port of Barrow in recent times
Name Operator Date visited Notes
Ocean Majesty United Kingdom Page & Moy [21]
MS Silver Wind United States Silversea Cruises [21]
MV Black Prince Norway Fred. Olsen & Co. June 2003 [22]
MS Arion Portugal Arcalia Shipping August 2003 [22]
Minerva II United Kingdom Swan Hellenic September 2004 [23]
MS Deutschland Germany Peter Deilmann Cruises May 2005 [21]
MS Deutschland Germany Peter Deilmann Cruises June 2006 [21]
MS Prinsendam United States Holland America Line July 2008 [24]
Tahitian Princess United States Princess Cruises May 2009 [25]



See also

Companies associated with the port


  1. ^ http://www.lake-district-peninsulas.co.uk/cruise-ships.htm
  2. ^ a b c d e . Associated British Port Holdings. http://www.abports.co.uk/custinfo/ports/barrow.htm. Retrieved 19 February 2010. 
  3. ^ Barrow Steelworks
  4. ^ Effects on employment of the closure of VSEL or YSL
  5. ^ http://www.cumbria-industries.org.uk/ports.htm#barrow
  6. ^ "History of the Furness Railway Company". The Furness Railway Trust. http://www.furnessrailwaytrust.org.uk/frco.htm. Retrieved 18 February 2010. 
  7. ^ The Naval and Armaments Company Limited (1896). The Works at Barrow-in-Furness of The Naval Construction and Armaments Company Limited - Historical and Descriptive. Barrow-in-Furness: The Naval and Armaments Company Limited, partly reprinted from 'Engineering' magazine. p. 54. 
  8. ^ Partridge, Frank (16 March 2006). "The Compete Guide to: England's Islands". The Independent (Independent News & Media). http://travel.independent.co.uk/uk/article351869.ece. Retrieved 18 February 2010. 
  9. ^ "The Rotary Club of Furness". The Rotary Club of Great Britain. http://www.rotary-ribi.org/clubs/committee.asp?ClubCtteeID=2939&ClubID=1734. Retrieved 10 August 2007. 
  10. ^ "Submarine History of Barrow-in-Furness". Submarine Heritage Centre. http://www.submarineheritage.com/history.html. Retrieved 18 February 2010. 
  11. ^ "The Battle of Britain - Diary - 2 September 1940". RAF. 16 February 2005. http://www.raf.mod.uk/bob1940/september2.html. Retrieved 18 February 2010. 
  12. ^ "World War II" (PDF). Dock Museum. 16 February 2005. Archived from the original on August 13, 2007. http://web.archive.org/web/20070813205557/http://www.dockmuseum.org.uk/docs/Publication+world+war+II-web.pdf. Retrieved 18 February 2010. 
  13. ^ Maggie Mort; Graham Spinardi (2004). "Defence and the decline of UK mechanical engineering - the case of Vickers at Barrow". Business History 46 (1): 1–22. doi:10.1080/00076790412331270099. http://www.lancs.ac.uk/fass/centres/css/library/mortspindardi_defenceandecline. Retrieved 18 February 2010. [dead link]
  14. ^ (PDF) Views of main parties as part of report into British Aerospace PLC proposed merger with VSEL, Competition Commission, 23 May 1995, http://www.competition-commission.gov.uk/rep_pub/reports/1995/fulltext/365c5.pdf 
  15. ^ Mort, Maggie (2002). Building the Trident Network. MIT Press. ISBN 0 262 13397 0. 
  16. ^ Schofield, Steven (January 2007). "Oceans of Work: Arms Conversion Revisited" (PDF). British American Security Information Council. Archived from the original on 10 July 2007. http://web.archive.org/web/20070710111238/http://www.basicint.org/nuclear/beyondtrident/oceans.pdf. Retrieved 25 August 2007. 
  17. ^ a b c d . http://www.abports.co.uk/custinfo/ports/barrow/commodities.htm. Retrieved 20 February 2010. 
  18. ^ http://www.sellafieldsites.com/UserFiles/File/Sellafield%20News/Sellafield%20News%2018_06_08.pdf
  19. ^ a b c d . http://www.abports.co.uk/custinfo/ports/barrow/facilities.htm. Retrieved 20 February 2010. 
  20. ^ a b http://www.ports.co.uk/news20075613.htm
  21. ^ a b c d . Associated British Port Holdings. http://www.ports.co.uk/news20065153.htm. Retrieved 19 February 2010. 
  22. ^ a b . Associated British Port Holdings. http://www.abport.co.uk/news2003379.htm. Retrieved 19 February 2010. 
  23. ^ . Associated British Port Holdings. http://www.ports.co.uk/news20043502.htm. Retrieved 19 February 2010. 
  24. ^ http://www.barrowbc.gov.uk/pdf/focus_%20page4and5-web.pdf
  25. ^ http://www.nwemail.co.uk/news/barrow/review_of_the_year_1_654508?referrerPath=1.51019

External links

Coordinates: 54°06′29″N 3°13′37″W / 54.108°N 3.227°W / 54.108; -3.227

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