Port of Bilbao

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Port of Bilbao
Logo puerto bilbao.jpg
General Information
Founded June 1300
 - Latitude
 - Longitude

43° 21' 09" N
03° 02' 56" W

3.13 km² (land)
16.94 km² (water)
Docks 17 km
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
Official Website

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 (10.6 mi) of waterfront.

Port of Bilbao


The history of the port is inseparably linked to the history of Bilbao itself, so the date of its foundation is also that of the city's foundation.

In 1300 Bilbao was granted the status of city and was given control of the maritime traffic entering its estuary. The first docks were built at Bilbao's old town, 15 km (9.3 mi) upstream from the open 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 ore deposites were discovered in the nearby hills, which boosted the area's industrial base. 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 frequently altered the stream's course;
  • several complicated meanders;
  • extensive marshy area;
  • storms blowing in from the Bay of Biscay that flooded 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 was Spain's biggest port. This allowed the fast development of the region's economy, and shipyards and steel mills covered the riverbanks. 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.


Container vessel arriving at Bilbao

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. It is Spain's largest port.

From 1998 to the present, the port's physical capacity has increased dramatically, which has led to increased traffic.

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 freight traffic.

Cruise ships[edit]

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 1997, which has brought in many more tourists and put Bilbao on the cruising routes.


In September 2010, Brittany Ferries announced that it would take over the Portsmouth-Bilbao route, with the MV Cap Finistère.[1] The service commenced on 27 March 2011, complementing the company's existing Portsmouth/Portsmouth International Port-Santander and Plymouth-Santander routes.

Between May 1993 and September 2010, P&O Ferries provided this service with the Pride of Bilbao.

Between May 2006 and January 2007, Acciona Trasmediterránea operated a service using the MV Fortuny.




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.


Port Statistics
Year Annual Cargo Liquid Containers Passengers Vessels Cruises

2000 28,633,903 14,764,295 434,333 129,631 3,796
2001 27,100,442 14,325,857 454,382 134,954 3,845 17
2002 26,257,108 13,125,429 455,019 138,852 3,673 19
2003 28,099,276 15,662,945 453,763 111,622 3,458 17
2004 33,214,274 18,598,894 468,959 144,677 3.710 21
2005 34,100,494 19,684,506 503,811 177,795 3,583 21
2006 38,590,827 22,289,779 523,113 185,388 3,683 21
2007 40,014,326 22,682,181 554,568 172,626 3,595 21
2008 39,397,938 23,057,334 557,355 179,572 3,585 38


  1. ^ "Brittany Ferries saves Portsmouth-Bilbao route". Travel News UK. 27 September 2010. Archived from the original on 4 December 2010. Retrieved 8 October 2010.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 43°21′09″N 3°02′56″W / 43.35250°N 3.04889°W / 43.35250; -3.04889