Belfast, Port of

Encyclopaedia of Ships and Shipping (1908)

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
following qualifications:

     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
                                         trance     Low
                                          feet       Water
                                                       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.

                                GRAVING DOCKS
                                Width       Level       Depth      Breadth   Length
                                of En-       of sill       of Dock    of floor   of floor
                                trance      above      from
                                               Datum      coping
                                                               to floor
                                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

                                                                    ft. in.
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


Encyclopaedia of Ships and Shipping, edited by
Herbert B. Mason, London: The Shipping Encyclopaedia, Ltd., 1908.


Mark Baber

Leave a comment...