Dublin Port

Coordinates: 53°20′46″N 6°12′30″W / 53.34609°N 6.20831°W / 53.34609; -6.20831
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Dublin Port
Dublin Port – Western Basin
Click on the map for a fullscreen view
Coordinates53°20′46″N 6°12′30″W / 53.34609°N 6.20831°W / 53.34609; -6.20831
Operated byDublin Port Company
Type of harbourRiver port
Draft depthdepth 11.0 m.[2]
Dublin Port as seen from Dublin Bay

Dublin Port (Irish: Calafort Átha Cliath) is the seaport of Dublin, Ireland, of both historical and contemporary economic importance. Approximately two-thirds of Ireland's port traffic travels via the port, which is by far the busiest on the island of Ireland.


The modern Dublin Port is located on either side of the River Liffey, out to its mouth. On the north side of the river, the main part (205 hectares or 510 acres) of the port lies at the end of East Wall and North Wall, from Alexandra Quay. The element of the port on the south side of the river is much smaller (51 hectares or 130 acres) and lies at the beginning of the Poolbeg peninsula.


The port is served by road, with a direct connection from the Dublin Port Tunnel to the northern part (and so a connection with the M50 motorway).

There is no passenger rail service to either part of Dublin Port but the northern part is served by freight rail. The northern part is also served by Nolan Coaches Route 853 Dublin City to Dublin Port and Dublin Bus, with route 53[3] and by a Luas terminus just outside the port area. The southern part can be reached by bus.

Dublin Port Company[edit]

Dublin Port Company offices

The port is operated by the semi-state Dublin Port Company (DPC), incorporated on 28 February 1997 (formerly the Dublin Port and Docks Board, and successor to the Ballast Board founded in 1707), the headquarters of which are located just beyond the main port entrance on the northern side of the Liffey. In 2017 the area around the headquarters was rebuilt with the installation of a heritage crane and the creation of a maritime-themed garden. The company is responsible for the infrastructure of the port, with individual operations run by tenants such as State authorities, notably the customs service, ferry, freight and oil companies, terminal operators, and stevedores.[4]

The port company is responsible for pilotage services within Dublin Bay, and manages the three port lighthouses (but not those of Howth or Kish Bank). It also formerly operated two drydocks, which were closed in 2016.[5]

According to DPC, the port handled 23.5 million tonnes of cargo in 2003, as well as 1,426,000 passengers. That year 7,917 ships docked in the port, including 54 cruise liners carrying 54,000 visitors. In April 2010, the company announced its "busiest week ever", following restrictions placed on European airspace because of the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland. Some 72,118 passengers were reported to have travelled through the ferry terminals during the week of 15–21 April that year, and that week saw the culmination of increased trade in Dublin Port, as the company's figures for the first quarter of 2010 would eventually reveal. March 2010 saw a 13.5% trade increase when compared with March 2009, and that month was declared by the company as the fourth consecutive month of trade increase[6] since the economic downturn. The figures of imports and exports declined during the depression of 2010 but then increased during the decade and in 2019, 38.1 million tonnes of cargo was handled and there were 7,898 ship movements of which 158 were cruise ships.[7]


Medieval port[edit]

The medieval port of Dublin was located on the south bank of the Liffey near Christ Church Cathedral, a few kilometres upstream from its current location.

Ballast Office[edit]

On 17 September 1707, Thomas Burgh, the Surveyor General of Ireland, read a paper to the Dublin Society entitled 'Some Thoughts for the Improveing the Harbour of Dublin' (sic) in which the dangers of the bar of Dublin (a shallow sandbank which ran across the mouth of the river) was mentioned as well as a proposed basin in which ships could be secure from inclement weather or hostile attack.[8]

The year 1707 also witnessed the passing of "An Act for Cleansing the Port, Harbour, and River of Dublin and for Erecting a Ballast Office in the said city" which witnessed the initiation of the Ballast Office - the first municipal authority in Dublin to take control of the port. The key functions of the Ballast Office were the imposition of port charges and the maintenance of the navigation channel, the latter of which had been a perennial problem. Luke Gardiner acted as the first secretary of the office.[9]

Great South Wall[edit]

In 1715, work began on constructing the Great South Wall to shelter the entrance to the port. Poolbeg Lighthouse at the end of the South Bull Wall was constructed in 1767. The wall was finally completed in 1795 measuring 5 km. This protected the port from the shifting sands of Dublin Bay.[10]

After James Gandon's Custom House was built further downstream in 1791, the port moved further towards the north bank of the river estuary.

Bull Wall[edit]

In 1800, a three-month survey of Dublin Bay conducted by Captain William Bligh recommended the construction of the Bull Wall. After the completion of the wall in 1825, North Bull Island slowly formed as sand built up behind it.[11]

Nautical chart of Dublin Port in 1951


The advent of containerisation in the second half of the 20th century resulted in the port gradually moving a mile further downstream to enable new wharves with deeper water to be constructed.


A Masterplan 2040 was published by the Dublin Port Company in 2012 setting out a plan to improve capacity at the Port and a commitment not to expand the Port into Dublin Bay.[12] Prior to the Masterplan, over 40 years, the Dublin Port authorities had been exploring a controversial proposal to in-fill 21 hectares (52 acres) of Dublin Bay. The proposed development of Dublin Port which would have increased its capacity by 50 per cent was rejected by Bord Pleanála in June 2010.[13]

Panorama image showing Dublin Port in the evening


The main activity of the port is freight handling, with a wide range of vessels, from large container carriers to small diesel lighters, visiting daily.

Roll-on/roll-off passenger ferry services run regularly across the Irish Sea to Holyhead in Wales, Liverpool in England and in the summer months and at Christmas to Douglas, Isle of Man.[14] Services also go to Cherbourg, France.[15] The largest car ferry in the world, the Irish Ferries ship MV Ulysses which can carry up to 2000 passengers, runs on the Holyhead route. A new ship MV W.B. Yeats entered service in 2018 and is on the Cherbourg route.[16] Another company, CLDN, has ships that travel 6 times a week to Rotterdam and Zeebrugge and use the latest super ferries in Europe: MV Celine and MV Delphine. These are the world's largest short-sea Ro-Ro vessels with 8 km of road space on board. They do not take trucks on board, just the trailers.[17][18][19]

Dublin Port is also increasingly a docking point for cruise liners. Celebrity Eclipse began to home port in Dublin on 29 April 2018,[20] and the port authorities reported 158 cruise ship visits in 2019.[7] A temporary facility, Terminal 7, was created between Promenade and Tolka Quay Road at Branch Road; entered from Promenade Road, this allows cruise guests to check-in and leave baggage. A shuttle service transports guests to Ocean Pier 33. A new baggage claim facility was added to Ocean Pier 33 for guests to use when disembarking.

Aids to navigation and pilotage[edit]

The port has three lighthouses in the mouth of the Liffey, multiple other aids to navigation and operates a pilot service.[citation needed]

Terminals and operators[edit]

There are eleven passenger, freight and border inspection terminals at Dublin Port, serving several operators.[21]

Passenger ferry operators[edit]

Ferry Company Destination Terminal
Irish Ferries Holyhead, Cherbourg 1
Isle of Man Steam Packet Company Douglas, Isle of Man 1
Stena Line Holyhead 2
Seatruck Ferries Liverpool, Heysham 5

Passenger ferries[edit]

Preceding station   Ferry   Following station
Terminus   Irish Ferries
Terminus   Irish Ferries
high-speed catamaran
Terminus   Stena Line
Terminus   Isle of Man Steam Packet
Ferry (seasonal)

Freight operators[edit]

Ferry Company Destination Terminal
BG Freight Line Antwerp, Belfast, Liverpool, Rotterdam MTL
Celtic Forwarding Antwerp, Rotterdam DFT
Cobelfret Rotterdam, Zeebrugge CUCT
Eucon Antwerp, Rotterdam, Rouen, Southampton DFT
Samskip Rotterdam, Zeebrugge DFT
Zim Integrated Shipping Services Rotterdam DFT

Other activities[edit]

The Diving Bell, Sir John Rogerson's Quay

Within the main port enclave, on the north side of the river, are a power generating station (gas-fired), several oil terminals and a number of slightly-related businesses, and a Circle K petrol station on Bond Road. Entered at the north side of the port, but lying in East Wall, is one end of the Dublin Port Tunnel.

Since 2015 DPC has been involved in a series of heritage and community projects, including the Diving Bell Museum,[22] the Tolka Greenway, the Maritime Garden,[23] and the Pumphouse Heritage Zone.[24] In 2020, the Liffey to Tolka Greenway, designed with Grafton Architects, was announced with support from the port company.[25]

The central of three Liffey-mouth lighthouses


A number of workers have died whilst working at Dublin port, including James Byrne (June 2018),[26] Dennis Gomez (November 2018)[27] and Matthew Grimes (May 2021).[28]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "UNLOCODE (IE) - IRELAND". service.unece.org. Archived from the original on 8 May 2019. Retrieved 19 May 2020.
  2. ^ "Port of Dublin, Ireland". www.findaport.com. Shipping Guides Ltd. Retrieved 19 May 2020.
  3. ^ "53 - Dublin Bus". Archived from the original on 7 January 2019. Retrieved 28 August 2013.
  4. ^ "History of Port". Dublin Port. Archived from the original on 19 April 2021. Retrieved 19 April 2021.
  5. ^ Ashmore, Jehan (28 April 2016). "Nation's Largest Dry-Dock in Dublin to Close With Loss of 26 Jobs". afloat.ie. Archived from the original on 19 April 2021. Retrieved 19 April 2021.
  6. ^ http://www.insideireland.ie/index.cfm/section/news/ext/dublinportcompany001/category/1062[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ a b Dublin Port (2020). "Yearbook 2020" (PDF). Dublin Port. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2 April 2021. Retrieved 19 April 2021.
  8. ^ Craig, Maurice James (2006). Dublin, 1660-1860: The Shaping of a City. Liberties Press. ISBN 9781905483112. Retrieved 4 January 2023.
  9. ^ Killeen, Richard (2009). Historical Atlas of Dublin. Gill & Macmillan. ISBN 9780717145959. Retrieved 4 January 2023.
  10. ^ McDonald, Frank (20 June 1996). "South Wall cracks under ravages of sea after 250 years". The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 26 September 2021. Retrieved 19 April 2021.
  11. ^ Woodworth, Paddy (19 July 2012). "Dublin's accidental island". The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 20 June 2017. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  12. ^ "Masterplan 2040 – Reviewed 2018". Dublin Port. Archived from the original on 19 April 2021. Retrieved 19 April 2021.
  13. ^ McGreevy, Ronan (10 June 2010). "Port plan rejected by Bord Pleanála". The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 4 March 2021. Retrieved 19 April 2021.
  14. ^ "Isle of Man Ferries | Book Direct for the Best Fares". www.steam-packet.com. Archived from the original on 14 April 2021. Retrieved 19 April 2021.
  15. ^ Stena adds Dublin-Cherbourg route, as haulier warns of major problem Archived 17 January 2021 at the Wayback Machine by Will Goodbody, www.rte.ie, January 16, 2021.
  16. ^ Murray, Sean (8 October 2017). "WB Yeats chosen as name for new €144 million Irish cruise ferry". TheJournal.ie. Archived from the original on 19 April 2021. Retrieved 19 April 2021.
  17. ^ Pope, Conor (20 April 2018). "'Brexit-busting' ferry launched from Dublin Port". The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 11 February 2021. Retrieved 19 April 2021.
  18. ^ Dublin Port Company (10 December 2018). "CLDN's MV Celine & MV Delphine at Dublin Port". YouTube. Archived from the original on 19 April 2021. Retrieved 19 April 2021.
  19. ^ "World's Largest Short Sea Ro-Ro Vessel Named in Dublin". Offshore Energy. 23 April 2018. Archived from the original on 19 April 2021. Retrieved 19 April 2021.
  20. ^ Ó Conghaile, Pól (29 April 2018). "Twice the length of Croke Park: 317m cruise ship arrives to call Dublin home". Irish Independent. Archived from the original on 18 July 2018. Retrieved 19 April 2021.
  21. ^ "Getting Around".
  22. ^ Melia, Paul (11 February 2015). "140-year-old Diving Bell to be reborn as tourist attraction". Irish Independent. Archived from the original on 19 April 2021. Retrieved 19 April 2021.
  23. ^ "Dublin Port Centre maritime garden opens". News Four. 10 January 2018. Archived from the original on 19 April 2021. Retrieved 19 April 2021.
  24. ^ McGreevy, Ronan (18 December 2020). "Dublin Port makes pitch to become major cultural hub". The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 6 March 2021. Retrieved 19 April 2021.
  25. ^ Kelly, Olivia (11 November 2020). "New Dublin Port cycle route to bridge Dublin bay gap". The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 28 November 2020. Retrieved 19 April 2021.
  26. ^ "June2018 – Reviewed 2021". Irish Mirror. Archived from the original on 2 October 2020. Retrieved 18 May 2021.
  27. ^ "November 2018 – Reviewed 2021". Dublin Gazette. 22 November 2018. Archived from the original on 18 May 2021. Retrieved 18 May 2021.
  28. ^ "May2021 – Reviewed 2021". Irish Mirror. Archived from the original on 18 May 2021. Retrieved 18 May 2021.

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