Port of Barrow

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Port of Barrow
Barrow docks.jpg
A map of the port of Barrow
CountryUnited Kingdom
Coordinates54°06′29″N 3°13′37″W / 54.108°N 3.227°W / 54.108; -3.227Coordinates: 54°06′29″N 3°13′37″W / 54.108°N 3.227°W / 54.108; -3.227
Operated byAssociated British Ports Holdings
Owned byABP
Type of harborTidal locked harbour
Available berths12[2]
Draft depth7.3 m.[2]
Princess Selandia, an entertainment ship previously 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, but some land is 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 only deep water port between the Mersey and the Clyde.[3]

Barrow shipyard is one of the largest in the United Kingdom (it has built well over 800 vessels in its history), rivalled only by those in Belfast, Birkenhead and Govan. It is also home to the country's only submarine production facility. The port is heavily 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 becoming increasingly popular as a port of call for cruise liners visiting the town and the Lake District.[4] James Fisher & Sons are the main company to operate out of the port.


The Port of Barrow and the town's shipyard about 1890

Barrow has a long and complex history of shipbuilding and maritime trade. In the late 19th century, the town had the largest steelworks on Earth, and the Port of Barrow was the main route used to transport the steel produced in the town.[5] Historically, the Port of Barrow and BAE cover a large area, so that Barrow is one of the country's largest shipbuilding centres. Hundreds of warships, aircraft carriers, cruise liners, ferries and submarines have been constructed in Barrow, which remains the only operational submarine production facility in the UK.[6] A 1936 LMS advert said that their 300 acres (120 ha) of water and 400 acres (160 ha) of quays handled 375,000 tons of cargo per year.[7] The port's busiest year was 1956, when 1,155,076 tonnes of iron ore alone were exported.[8]

In 1839 Henry Schneider arrived at Barrow-in-Furness as a young speculator and dealer in iron, and in 1850 he discovered large deposits of haematite. 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.[9] 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, 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.[10]

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.[11] It also commissioned Sir Edwin Lutyens to design Abbey House as a guest house and residence for its managing director, Commander Craven.[12] 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,[13] 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 Mikasa, the Japanese flagship during the 1905 Russo-Japanese War, the liner 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).[14] Barrow's industry continued to supply the war effort. Winston Churchill once visited the town to launch the aircraft carrier HMS Indomitable.[15] After a rapid decline in the town's steel 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, Trafalgar 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.[16] The workforce shrank from 14,500 in 1990 to 5,800 in February 1995.[17] The rejection by the VSEL management of detailed plans for Barrow's industrial renewal in the mid-to-late 1980s remains controversial.[18] This has led to interest in the possibilities of converting military-industrial production in declining shipbuilding areas to the offshore renewable energy sector.[19]

The port today[edit]

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

Exports and imports[edit]

The port of Barrow has seen a big decrease in trade since steel production in the town halted; but many local businesses rely heavily on the port to import and export goods.[4] Some 41,000 tonnes of wood pulp per year are now imported here from Flushing, Netherlands, and 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.[4]

The port plays a major role in the region's energy production.[20] 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.[4] The PNTL vessel Pacific Heron is based at the port of Barrow, and is used to transport nuclear material between nearby Sellafield and Japan.[21] 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 wind farm site on Morecambe Bay. The turbines and energy produced are still strongly associated[clarification needed] with the port.[20] There are 20 hectares (49 acres) of storage space within the port, owned by Associated British Ports.[22] They also own a multi-purpose vessel, Furness Abbey, which is available for hire.[22] There are many cranes in Barrow's dockland. The majority are owned by BAE, and ABP only operates one 120-tonne quayside crane.[22] The maximum dimensions of vessels that can dock in Barrow are 200 m (656 ft) length by 35 m (115 ft) beam and 10 m (33 ft) draught.[22]

Significant exports
Material/ Product Annual amount handled Notes
Nuclear material, oil, gas and renewable energy [20]
Limestone and granite [20]
Significant imports
Material/ Product Annual amount handled Notes
Granite, sand and aggregates 100,000+ tonnes [23]
Wood pulp 41,000 tonnes [23]

Cruise ships[edit]

Tahitian Princess visited Barrow in 2009

Barrow itself has relatively few nearby tourist spots (Furness Abbey, South Lakes Safari Zoo and the Dock Museum), but it is quite close to the Lake District, and has been nicknamed "The Gateway to the Lakes". Barrow is the principal port serving Cumbria and the Lake District, and has been a port of call for several cruise ships in recent years.[4] A new purpose-built cruise ship terminal alongside Walney Channel was proposed as part of the multi-million pound waterfront development (see the 'Future' heading). This was subsequently removed from the plans.

Cruise ships that have called at the port of Barrow since 2000
Name Operator Date visited Notes
Ocean Majesty Page & Moy [24]
Silver Wind Silversea Cruises [24]
Black Prince Fred. Olsen & Co. June 2003 [25]
Arion Arcalia Shipping August 2003 [25]
Minerva II Swan Hellenic September 2004 [26]
Deutschland Peter Deilmann Cruises May 2005 [24]
Deutschland Peter Deilmann Cruises June 2006 [24]
Tahitian Princess Princess Cruises May 2009 [27]
Adonia P&O Cruises June 2014 [28]
Saga Pearl II Saga Cruises July 2016



See also[edit]

Companies associated with the port[edit]


  1. ^ "UNLOCODE (GB) - UNITED KINGDOM". www.unece.org. UNECE. Retrieved 21 October 2020.
  2. ^ a b "Port of Barrow-in-Furness, U.K." www.findaport.com. Shipping Guides Ltd. Retrieved 21 October 2020.
  3. ^ "Barrow-in-Furness, Britain's Newest Cruise Liner Port and Gateway to the English Lake District by Sea". lake-district-peninsulas.co.uk. n.d. Archived from the original on 23 January 2010. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Port of Barrow: Port Home". Associated British Port Holdings. Archived from the original on 7 November 2008. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  5. ^ "Ironbridge Gorge Museum - Barrow". ironbridge.org.uk. n.d. Archived from the original on 19 August 2007. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  6. ^ Effects on employment of the closure of VSEL or YSL Archived 28 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Railway Magazine August 1936 page vii
  8. ^ "Ports and Harbours | Industrial History of Cumbria".
  9. ^ "History of the Furness Railway Company". The Furness Railway Trust. Retrieved 18 February 2010.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ Partridge, Frank (16 March 2006). "The Complete Guide to: England's Islands". The Independent. Independent News & Media. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 18 February 2010.
  12. ^ "The Rotary Club of Furness". The Rotary Club of Great Britain. Archived from the original on 21 October 2007. Retrieved 10 August 2007.
  13. ^ "Submarine History of Barrow-in-Furness". Submarine Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 4 July 2007. Retrieved 18 February 2010.
  14. ^ "The Battle of Britain - Diary - 2 September 1940". RAF. 16 February 2005. Archived from the original on 15 August 2007. Retrieved 18 February 2010.
  15. ^ "World War II" (PDF). Dock Museum. 16 February 2005. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 August 2007. Retrieved 18 February 2010.
  16. ^ Mort, Maggie; 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.
  17. ^ Views of main parties as part of report into British Aerospace PLC proposed merger with VSEL (PDF), Competition Commission, 23 May 1995, archived from the original (PDF) on 20 May 2011
  18. ^ Mort, Maggie (2002). Building the Trident Network. MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-13397-0.
  19. ^ Schofield, Steven (January 2007). "Oceans of Work: Arms Conversion Revisited" (PDF). British American Security Information Council. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 July 2007. Retrieved 25 August 2007.
  20. ^ a b c d "Port of Barrow: Commodities". abports.co.uk. n.d. Archived from the original on 21 November 2008. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  21. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 19 February 2010.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  22. ^ a b c d "Port of Barrow: Facilities". abports.co.uk. n.d. Archived from the original on 21 November 2008. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  23. ^ a b "ABP's north-west ports report solid performance in 2006". abports.co.uk. 21 February 2007. Archived from the original on 22 August 2007. Retrieved 13 March 2019. http://www.ports.co.uk/news20075613.htm
  24. ^ a b c d "Cruise ship Deutschland returns to warm welcome in Barrow". Associated British Port Holdings. 1 June 2006. Archived from the original on 8 January 2009. Retrieved 19 February 2010.
  25. ^ a b "Sound first half of the year for ABP's north-west ports". Associated British Port Holdings. 3 September 2003. Archived from the original on 15 February 2005. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  26. ^ "ABP Barrow welcomes wise goddess of the waves". Associated British Port Holdings. 2 September 2004. Archived from the original on 13 September 2004. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  27. ^ "Review of the year". North West Evening Mail. 4 January 2010. Archived from the original on 5 June 2011. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  28. ^ "Luxury cruise ship Adonia docks at Barrow". North West Evening Mail. 23 June 2014. Archived from the original on 25 June 2014. Retrieved 13 March 2019.

External links[edit]