Port of Bilbao
|Founded||June 15, 1300|
43° 22' 43" N
03° 04' 57" W
3.13 km² (land)
16.94 km² (water)
|Vessel arrivals||3,595 (2007)|
|Annual container volume||554,568 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) (2007)|
|Annual cargo tonnage||40.0 million metric revenue tons (2007)|
|Cruise traffic||172,626 passengers (2007)|
|Total operating revenue||€ 56.7 million|
|Net income||€ 25.5 million|
The Port of Bilbao is located on the Bilbao Abra bay, and along the Estuary of Bilbao, in Biscay (Basque Country). The main facilities are in the Santurtzi and Zierbena municipalities, approximately 15 km (9.3 mi) west of Bilbao. Also called Exterior Port and Superpuerto, the port complex occupies 3.13 km² (773 acres) of land and 16.94 km² (4,186 acres) of water along 17 km (10.5 mi) of waterfront.
The history of the port is absolutely linked to the history of Bilbao itself, so the date of its foundation is that of the city's foundation.
In 1300 Bilbao was granted the status of city and the control of the maritime traffic entering its estuary. The first docks were built at Bilbao's old town, 15 km (9.1 mi) away from the sea. These docks were the center of the port's activity for more than five centuries. In 1511 the Consulate of Bilbao privilege was granted, which allowed the port control over the northern European wool export routes.
During the 19th century extensive iron resources were found in the nearby hills, this boosted the industrial revolution in the zone and the estuary of Bilbao was covered by steel and shipbuilding industries and the docks expanded from Bilbao to the bay. All activity relied on the navigability of the river so engineer Evaristo Churruca developed an enormous project that would solve the traditional navigation problems of the river:
- Dangerous sand banks that changed the course constantly.
- Many complicated meanders.
- Large extents of marsh.
- The Bay of Biscay storms that hit the river's mouth.
The river banks were drained and docks were built, the river's course was straightened, the external port was enclosed, and the Puente Colgante transporter bridge was built. By 1900 Bilbao had Spain's biggest port. This allowed the fast development of the region's economy, and shipyards and steelmills covered the banks of the river. During the 1970s the Santurtzi area was developed and the Deusto channel was created.
But things continued to evolve, the industry decayed and docks were abandoned. On top of that, vessels have constantly increased their tonnage and large tankers and freighters could not enter the river anymore and the Santurtzi area became too congested. In 1975 a large project was conceived, known as the Superpuerto. The plan is for all of Abra Bay to eventually be enclosed by docks. The project continues today.
The container volume was over half a million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) in year 2007. The Port is the 4th busiest port in Spain after Algeciras, Barcelona and Valencia and is Spain's largest.
From 1998 to the present, the port's physical capacity has increased dramatically, so this has influenced the increase of traffic in the last years.
The port is served by the RENFE railroad, but a new rail connection is needed because the current line is shared by commuter traffic and goes through a densely populated metropolitan area. A high speed connection is being considered, but Spain's current high-speed network does not support goods traffic.
A new dock was built in Getxo to meet the increasing demand in cruise ship traffic, fed largely by the opening of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in 1998, which has brought in many more tourists and put Bilbao on the cruising routes.
The P&O ferry service to Portsmouth, with the Pride of Bilbao, leaves from the Santurtzi docks. This service started in May 1993. However on 15 January 2010, P&O announced that the route was to be closed.
In September 2010, Brittany Ferries announced that it would take over the Portsmouth-Bilbao route, with the MV Cap Finistère. The service commenced on 27 March 2011. The service will complement their existing Portsmouth/Portsmouth International Port-Santander and Plymouth-Santander routes.
There has been a lot of concern about the huge enlargement project of the exterior port. Ecologist movements protest because large portions of the bay are being covered by docks and the adjacent hills are being dynamited to get the raw materials used in the construction of the new docks.
- Annual Cargo: In tons
- Containers: ATM and TMB terminals. Measured in TEUs.
- Vessels: Vessels that berthed at the port.
- "Brittany Ferries saves Portsmouth-Bilbao route". Travel News UK. September 27, 2010. Retrieved October 8, 2010.