Belfast, Port of. Belfast Harbour, the premier harbour of Ireland, is at
the head of Belfast Lough, in latitude 54° 36' N., 5° 56' W. The time of
high water at full and change is 10 hours and 43 minutes.
The rise of the tide varies from 9 1/2ft. springs to 7ft. 8in. neaps.
The prevailing wind is from the south-west to north-west for nine months
of the year. The harbour is safe, and the approach from the sea is easy
by means of a straight channel, which is efficiently lighted by oil, so
that it is easily navigated by night as well as by day. The depth of
water in the channel is 20 feet at average low water.
In 1613 a charter incorporating Belfast a borough empowered the
"Sovereign, free burgesses, and commonalty" to construct a wharf or quay
at Belfast, and in 1688 a new charter empowered the same authority to
mend the quays and receive dues.
The first Act of Parliament for regulating Belfast Harbour was passed in
1729, and empowered the authorities to appoint officers, to make
bye-laws, [sic] to supply ballast, and to levy tonnage dues. In 1785 an
Act was passed by which the Belfast Corporation, consisting of 15
members, was constituted. This Act empowered the new corporation to
license pilots, appoint a harbour-master, mark and deepen the channel,
and construct docks. A further Act was passed in 1837 changing the name
of the corporation to the "Corporation for Preserving and Improving the
Port and Harbour of Belfast." This corporation consisted of 18 members,
two of whom were ex officio. The corporation had power under this Act to
borrow money, purchase private quays and docks, and construct a straight
channel to deep water. The first section of this channel was opened in
1841. the second in 1849, and it was further extended and deepened in
The present harbour authority, styled the "Belfast Harbour
Commissioners," was constituted by the Belfast Harbour Act of 1847. This
Act gave enlarged borrowing powers for the purpose of purchasing
additional property, filling up old docks, and widening and improving
the quays. Authority was also given to levy tonnage and quayage dues on
vessels. rates on goods, pilotage, porterage and storage, and rents. The
Commissioners are also conservators of the harbour under the Belfast
Port and Harbour Conservancy Act, 1852.
By the Belfast Harbour Act, 1883, the number of members was increased to
twenty-two, the Lord Mayor being a member ex officio.
A person is not qualified to act as a Commissioner unless he resides
within 20 miles from the harbour office, and possesses one of the
He must be either the registered owner of at least 300 tons of a
vessel or vessels belonging to and registered at Belfast, and
engaged in the coasting, channel, or foreign trade; or be rated
as the occupier of premises within the borough of Belfast on a
net annual value of not less than £60, or be rated as one of
several joint occupiers of such premises of not less than £60
for each such joint occupier; or be seized in his own right or in
the right of his wife of real estate in the United Kingdom of a net
annual value not less than £200, or of personal estate of a gross
value not less than £5,000.
The Commissioners are elected by a constituency of shipowners and
ratepayers. The elector must be the registered owner of at least 50 tons
of a vessel or vessels belonging to and registered at Belfast, and
engaged in the coasting, channel, or foreign trade, or be rated as the
occupier of premises within the borough of Belfast on a net annual value
of not less than £20.
The following is a tabular statement of the docks, etc., in the harbour:
RIVER LAGAN, ETC.
Opened Quays Depth Lineal
o.h.w. o.l.w. Quayage
ft. in ft. in. feet
1848 Canal Quay ... . 8 8 0 2 200
1849 Donnegal Quay ... 24 3 15 9 3,218
1874 Albert Quay ... ... 24 3 15 3 1,987
1877 Queen's Quay ... .. 23 9 15 3 2,122
1903 No. 1 & 2 Quays .32 3 23 9 800
1904 No. 3 Quay. .. ... 34 3 25 9 400
1889 Alexandra Wharf 34 3 25 9 943
1889 Clarence Wharf ... 25 3 16 9 750
1895 Victoria Wharf ... ..24 3 15 9 754
1900 Alexandra Jetty ... 30 3 21 9 814
1905 New Wharf, Down..40 3 31 9 600
DOCKS AND BASINS
Opened Docks Width Depth Water Lineal
of En- below area Quayage
feet a. r.p.
1851 Clarendon Dock 50 9 4 0 21 2,076
1867 Abercorn Basin -- 11 10 2 12 1,429
1872 Dufferin Dock 60 15 3 1 12 1,660
1872 Spencer Dock 180 15 7 1 39 1,974
1872 Milewater Basin -- 11 1/2 5 0 2 971
1897 York Dock 100 26 10 1 0 4,142
Total Lineal Quayage, 24,840 feet.
Width Level Depth Breadth Length
of En- of sill of Dock of floor of floor
trance above from
feet ft. in. ft. in. ft. in. ft. in
Clarendon Graving 29 1 9 14 9 27 6 245 0
Dock No. 1
Clarendon Graving 36 Harb. 15 6 34 0 287 0
Dock No. 2 datum
Hamilton Graving 60 5 7 22 9 50 0 451 6
Alexandra Graving 80 15 0 31 0 50 0 800 0
Harbour datum-Level of No. 2 Clarendon Graving Dock Sill, and 1 ft. 8
3/4 ins. below avenge low water level.
Ordnance datum-(2 ft. 11 1/2 ins.) Three feet below Harbour datum.
The Commissioners are constructing another graving dock of the following
Length of dock or floor from the north
quoin of the inner caisson sill to the toe
of the battered wall at the south of the
dock .. .. .. .. .. 850 0
Breadth of dock from toe to toe of the
battered side wall below alter courses . 100 0
Breadth of dock from coping to coping . . 128 0
Height of coping above harbour datum . . 16 0
Width of caisson chamber in clear . . 23 4 1/2
Level of surface at inner and outer sills is
to be below harbour datum .. .. 24 6
This graving dock will be one of the largest in the world.
The docks and basins cover an area of about 136 acres. The harbour
consists of about 590 acres of land and 1,528 acres of water, or about
2,118 acres in all. There is a complete system of tramways around the
harbour, and coal, etc., can be loaded direct from vessels into the
railway trucks. These tramways are connected with all the railway
systems of the country. Shipbuilding is encouraged, and the large
shipbuilding and engineering works of Messrs. Harland and Wolff, Ltd.,
and Messrs. Workman, Clark and Co., Ltd., who have a world-wide
reputation for the construction of the largest class of ocean-going
steamers, are situated on the harbour estate.
The revenue of the harbour from all sources, excluding loans, for the
year 1906 was £157,000, and the surplus, after defraying all expenses,
was nearly £20,000.
Relates to Place:Belfast, Northern Ireland
AcknowledgementsEncyclopaedia of Ships and Shipping, edited by
Herbert B. Mason, London: The Shipping Encyclopaedia, Ltd., 1908.