Port of Gibraltar

The Port of Gibraltar, also known as Gibraltar Harbour, is a seaport in the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar. It was a strategically important location during the Napoleonic Wars and after 1869 served as a supply point for ships travelling to India through the Suez Canal.[2] The harbour of Gibraltar was transformed in the nineteenth century as part of the British Government's policy of enabling the Royal Navy to defeat its next two largest rival navies combined. Both Gibraltar and Malta were to be made torpedo proof, and as a result the North and South Mole were extended and the Detached Mole was constructed. Three large dry docks were constructed and plans were available by 1894. Over 2,000 men were required and had to be billeted in old ships which had not been required since convict labour was abandoned. The demand for stone and sand necessitated building the Admiralty Tunnel right through the Rock of Gibraltar.[3]

Port of Gibraltar
Port of Gibraltar
LocationEastern shores of the Bay of Gibraltar
Coordinates36.1485°N 5.3652°W / 36.1485; -5.3652
Vessel arrivals 10,350 sea ships (2011)[1]

In 1903 Edward VII arrived to name the new No. 3 Dock of the new Gibraltar Harbour after himself.[3] Queen Alexandra arrived in HMY Victoria and Albert in 1906 and the Prince and Princess of Wales the following year to name dock number two and then one after themselves.[3]

Since 2009 the docks have been known as Gibdock.[4]


History of the Port

After Spain lost the Battle of Gibraltar in 1704, the port became part of Britain. In 1713, Article X of the Treaty of Utrecht was created to officially terminate any right Spain had for the city of Gibraltar. Once the agreement was completed Britain took full control of and possession of the port.[5] The acquisition of Gibraltar was a tremendous victory for the British at the time allowing them to send ships from London to the Mediterranean cities. The port was seen as the doors that connected the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. It was a great innovation, that allowed Britain to expand its trade. As a result, Queen Anne made the Port of Gibraltar a Free Port in February 1706; this simple decision had a major economic impact on the community.[5] The act allowed any international vessels to trade without the need to pay any type of compensation tax. Trade was allowed without taxes allowing ships from North Africa, Turkey, Italy and any other nationality to trade their goods freely, making Gibraltar one of the most important ports in Europe, vessels from all over the world came to trade their goods.

First beginnings

In the mid-18th century the port of Gibraltar became a naval station for the Royal Navy. It served as an important tactical point, where a whole fleet of Navy vessels and 4,000 soldiers were assigned to the port, awaiting orders from their king (Constantine, S. & Blinkhorn, M 2009).[6] Therefore, Britain having the port secured, turned their main focus to exploiting the port’s economic assets. As a world trade point, the port of Gibraltar was exporting wine to different cities in the Mediterranean, making Britain millions of profit. This was their main product of exportation because the city had major wine factories. However, ships that were full with spices, cotton, and many other imports had as final destination the port of Gibraltar.The port allowed the distribution of goods to all over Europe making it the best efficient way to import and export to Europe and the Mediterranean Sea. As a result of being one of the busiest ports in the world this created jobs opportunities. This made the Port of Gibraltar the perfect place for immigrants looking for employment. As a major supply link the port was required to have large labor force to discharge fresh products such as Beef and Mutton for the Britain troops that were imported from the city Tetuan, in Morocco (Constantine, S. & Blinkhorn, M 2009).[6] Therefore, any ship from any nation, including, remarkably, those with Britain might even be at war, were totally free to trade with Gibraltar provided that they brought in supplies. This was the reason that by the 1770s vessels from North America imported tobacco, Sugar, cotton, timber, dried cod, rum; rice and maize through the port of Gibraltar. As a result, imports were able to be distributed to all over Europe and Asia. As the center of the international trade market, the port of Gibraltar had large amount of currency transaction during this trading.[6] However, in many cases, the port was not only a trade point but an exchange of shipments that were re-exported to other ports in the world. This new innovation is what made the port Gibraltar one of the most successful ports up to this date.

New citizens

The great success of the Port of Gibraltar caught the attention of many that were seeking escape from war and poverty. The port of Gibraltar was a worldwide trade point that was in need of labour. This created a revolution of immigrants looking to obtain a steady job where they could sustain their families.The port of Gibraltar was the indicated place for immigrants to find a job. As a result, in the fallowing years around 1,500 families moved into Gibraltar which made a tremendously positive impact in the port. The immigrants were a great solution to the port after, most of the population left after Spain loss the territory leaving the city without any labour force that could sustain the port.[7] An estimated 450 native citizen stayed in the port after, Britain took over the port. As a result, the open positions were taken by the immigrants that came from all parts of Europe, North Africa and the Mediterranean. Therefore, re-repopulation was required not only to keep the port running but to maintain the city functioning. Also, many immigrants were hired as servants for wealthy Britain families that were attracted to the new possession of the land and many decided to establish themselves in Gibraltar (Levey, D.2008) pg.39-45.[8] Once the immigrants were established the port was able to keep up with the ships that came in out of the port on a daily basis. The workforce at the port was responsible for discharging and loading ships by hand. Therefore, the British government allowed the immigrants to establish themselves as part of the population in order to maintain the port running (Levey, D.2008) pg.39-45.[9] Therefore, in the population cases of mix relationships started to happen a mixture of cultures was created. [10] This was a new innovation for the century, which created controversy at the time because mix relationships were not acceptable (Levey, D.2008) pg.39-45.[9] The main races that were located at the time in Gibraltar were British, Spanish, Genoes, Minorcan, Maltes, Jewish, and Indian. The intermarriage between these races created the new type of citizens known as Gibraltarians. Since then the Gibraltarians have stay in the port of Gibraltar making sure the port stay functioning. Therefore, Gibraltarians make up 81.2% of the population, UK British 11.4% and non-British 7.4% making a total of 29,876 people up to this date.[10]

Local business

The Port of Gibraltar in the 19th century was one of the main world trade points that allowed business opportunities for Gibraltarians. Therefore, in the 1800s many of those that worked at the port were able to become skill commercial traders (Brown, J.2012) pg.22-25.[11] As commercial traders many of them distrusted goods around the city for the local population consumption. Also, these merchants were intermediaries between customers and the ships that carried the imports. Therefore, they had an important role in the port because they helped to expand the products brought to the port to third parties companies. The demand for international trade were always high because the port of Gibraltar received ships from all over the world making one of the few with the capability of bringing imports products from all over the world (Brown, J.2012) pg.22-25.[12] Therefore, the port of Gibraltar made an average merchant into important business man allowing them to build their own wealth by selling and trading products. One of the products that was in high demand was Tabaco and alcohol which, were distributed to Europe. A great opportunity that many Gibraltarians took since trading was such a great way to make money (Brown, J.2012) pg.22-25.[11] At the time the economy of the port was at its peak therefore, it resulted in many entrepreneurs that were looking to make a fortune and make them self-rich. As a result of these a new type entrepreneurs created new businesses at the port from repairing ships station, and bars. The new businesses helped the economy of the port of Gibraltar by creating jobs. However, another way Gibraltarians made money was smuggling contraband. This was one of the ways the port of Gibraltar was used many of merchants made their capital this way since they didn’t pay taxes. The contraband business was the second operation in the port that made the most profit to the economy. It was big issues that both Spain and Gibraltar try to stop but many smugglers couldn’t resist. (Stockey, G & Grocott, and C 2012) pg.37-42.[10] These two sources of income were the pillar of the port of Gibraltar trading and contraband. As the time passed regulations became stricter this helped in the reduction of contraband in the Port of Gibraltar. A new century brought international companies with the assents necessary to helped modernize the port of Gibraltar creating one of the most modern ports in the world.

The modern Port of Gibraltar

One of the most successful and modern ports in Europe is the Port of Gibraltar. This port has a major advantage located in a peninsula, which makes it extremely valuable having such a well strategic point that provides not only military but economic benefits. As a result, for 200 years this port has been the Maritime centre point connecting the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. The geology of this Port has allowed it to serve the function of worlds trade points to cargo ships and cruise ships that arrived to port on a daily basis. An estimated 71,000 vessels transit the Strait of Gibraltar annually making it one of the few ports that are able to provide any service to any vessels of all sizes and types (Gibraltar Port Authority 2015).[13] The Port of Gibraltar provides low-cost fees to European ships based on the European Union agreement making it the first choice of many vessels that are located near the areas. Therefore, to this date the main service that leads the operations in the port of Gibraltar is bunkering. The bunkering industry is the main operation that takes place in the port of Gibraltar an estimated 4.2 million ton of bunkering products was delivered to the port in 2011(Gibraltar Port Authority 2015).[13] This allows companies located in the port to supply thousands of ships with all grades in marine fuel to maintain the ships. One of the main consumers that depend on these companies are container ships that have to discharge their cargo in Gibraltar in order transport their cargo into Europe. The port of Gibraltar offers several hundred meters of tidal allowing any vessels to berth at any time of the day or night. Therefore, many vessels that are heading out of the Mediterranean going to the Atlantic Ocean or vice versa used the port to supply and refuel their vessels. As a result, the port of Gibraltar has a design a facility at the northern part of the port, where container ships are able to dock in order to load and discharge containers cargo. Companies like Oldenburg-Portugiesische, Dampfschiffss-rhederei, and OPDR have been supplying cargo to Gibraltar since 1892. Nevertheless, nowadays the port suffers from the competition of the Port of Algeciras in Spain and the Port of Tanger-Med in Morocco, which having more capacity and technology to deal with containers, have taken the transit traffic. However, a great success that identifies this port is the thousands of tourism that arrived each year from cruise ships. It’s one of the main sources of income to the Port of Gibraltar this year 212 cruise ships from different parts of the world are scheduled to arrive this year (Gibraltar Port Authority 2015). An estimated 301,187 passengers will be making a stop in the port of Gibraltar to visit the beautiful town of Gibraltar and learn the rich history of the town. The Port of Gibraltar is one of the few ports that had a successful beginning and was able maintain its success up to the modern day.


  1. "Statistics Ships Calling". gibraltarport.com. Port of Gibraltar. Retrieved 29 August 2012.
  2. "An Outline of the Port Infrastructure". Port of Gibraltar Handbook 2010-11. Gibraltar Port Authority. 2011. p. 13. Retrieved 29 August 2012.
  3. Jackson, Sir William G. F. (1990). The rock of the Gibraltarians : a history of Gibraltar (2nd ed.). Grendon: Gibraltar Books. pp. 257–267. ISBN 0948466146.
  4. Gibraltar Chronicle - Cammell Laird Gibraltar becomes 'Gibdock' Archived 27 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  5. Stockey, G & Grocott, C (2012).Gibraltar: A Modern History. University of Wales Press.Retrieved From http://site.ebrary.com/lib/csum/detail.action?docID=1063980
  6. Constantine, S. & Blinkhorn, M (2009).Community and identity: the making of modern Gibraltar since 1704. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Retrieved From http://site.ebrary.com/lib/csum/reader.action?docID=10623326
  7. Musteen, J (2011) Nelson’s Refuge: Gibraltar in the Agee of Napoleon. Naval Institution Press. Retrieved From http://site.ebrary.com/lib/csum/detail.action?docID=10500079
  8. Levey, D (2008). Language Change and Variation in Gibraltar. John Benjamin Publishing Company. Retrieved From http://site.ebrary.com/lib/csum/detail.action?docID=10217823
  9. Levey, D (2008). Language Change and Variation in Gibraltar. John Benjamin Publishing Company.Retrieved From http://site.ebrary.com/lib/csum/detail.action?docID=10217823
  10. Constantine, S. & Blinkhorn, M (2009).Community and identity: the making of modern Gibraltar since 1704. Manchester: Manchester University Press.Retrieved From http://site.ebrary.com/lib/csum/reader.action?docID=10623326
  11. Brown, J (2012).Studies in the History and Society of the Maghrib, Volume 2: Crossing The Strait : Morocco, Gibraltar and Great Britain in the 18th and 19th Centuries. Brill Retrieved From http://site.ebrary.com/lib/csum/detail.action?docID=10562450
  12. Brown, J (2012).Studies in the History and Society of the Maghrib, Volume 2: Crossing The Strait : Morocco, Gibraltar and Great Britain in the 18th and 19th Centuries. Brill Retrieved From http://site.ebrary.com/lib/csum/detail.action?docID=10562450
  13. Gibraltar Port Authority (2015). Retrieved From http://www.gibraltarport.com/
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