Port of Liverpool

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Coordinates: 53°24′22″N 2°59′46″W / 53.406°N 2.996°W / 53.406; -2.996

Port of Liverpool Building

The Port of Liverpool is the enclosed 7.5 miles (12.1 km) dock system that runs from Brunswick Dock in Liverpool to Seaforth Dock, Seaforth, on the east side of the River Mersey and the Birkenhead Docks between Birkenhead and Wallasey on the west side of the river. Garston Docks, which are in the city of Liverpool, are not a part of the Port of Liverpool.

The working docks are operated by Mersey Docks and Harbour Company, the docks to the south of the Pier Head in Liverpool are operated by British Waterways.



Liverpool's first dock was the Old Dock built in 1715. The old Pool was converted into the enclosed dock. The dock was the world's first enclosed commercial dock. Further docks were added and eventually all were interconnected by lock gates, extending 7.5 miles (12.1 km) along the Liverpool bank of the River Mersey.

The interconnected dock system was the most advanced port system in the world. The docks enabled ship movements within the dock system 24 hours a day, isolated from the high River Mersey tides. Parts of the system are now a World Heritage Site.[1]

Most of the smaller south end docks were closed in 1971 with Brunswick Dock remaining until closure in 1975. Many docks have been filled in to create land for buildings at the Pier Head, an arena at Kings Dock, commercial estates at Toxteth and Harrington Docks and housing at Herculaneum Dock. Other branch docks have been filled in, in the north end with a sewage processing plant being built at Sandon Dock.

The largest dock on the dock network, Seaforth Dock, was opened in 1972 dealing with grain and containers, accommodating the largest containers ships of the time.

Both White Star Line and Cunard Line were based at the port. It was also the home port of many great ships, including RMS Baltic and the ill starred Tayleur, MV Derbyshire, HMHS Britannic, RMS Lusitania and the RMS Titanic.

In 1972 Canadian Pacific were the last transatlantic line to operate from Liverpool.

Port statistics

In 2010 Liverpool was the United Kingdom's seventh largest port by tonnage handled.[2]

Grain2,289,000 tonnes2,377,000 tonnes2,360,000 tonnes2,455,000 tonnes
Timber295,000 tonnes391,000 tonnes406,000 tonnes452,000 tonnes
Bulk liquids774,000 tonnes727,000 tonnes788,000 tonnes707,000 tonnes
Bulk cargo6,051,000 tonnes6,296,000 tonnes5,572,000 tonnes5,026,000 tonnes
Oil Terminal11,406,000 tonnes11,406,000 tonnes11,604,000 tonnes11,236,000 tonnes
General cargo374,000 tonnes556,000 tonnes468,000 tonnes514,000 tonnes
Total32,171,000 tonnes31,753,000 tonnes30,564,000 tonnes30,501,000 tonnes

Cruise liner terminal

MS Prinsendam at Liverpool's Cruise Liner terminal

Cruise liners have operated from the port with a terminal at Langton Dock. Cruise liners returned to Liverpool's Pier Head in 2008, berthing at a newly constructed cruise liner terminal. In 2011 proposals to use the terminal for the start and end of voyages, rather than as a stop-off point, led to a dispute with Southampton due to the large public subsidy provided for the new terminal.[3]

Ships which have called at Liverpool include RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2) Grand Princess from Bermuda and the RMS Queen Mary 2, along with a number of large Royal Navy vessels. As well as being a calling point, cruises also depart from Liverpool's Langton Dock.

Liverpool is one of the few cities in the world where ocean-going liners can berth in the city centre, providing a spectacular addition to the waterfront skyline.

Rail connections

The extent of the Liverpool Docks rail network in 1909

At one point the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company freight railway totalled 104 miles (166 km) of rail line, with connections to many other railways. A section of freight rail line ran under the Liverpool Overhead passenger railway, with trains constantly crossing the Dock Road from the docks into the freight terminals. Today, only the Canada Dock branch line is used to serve the docks, using diesel locomotives.

The first rail link to the docks was the construction of the 1830 Park Lane railway goods station opposite the Queens Dock in the south of the city. The terminal was accessed via the 1.26 miles (2.03 km) Wapping Tunnel from Edge Hill rail junction in the east of the city. The station was demolished in 1972. The tunnel is still intact.

Until 1971 Liverpool Riverside railway station served the liner terminal at the Pier Head. Today, for passengers disembarking from the new cruise liner terminal, city centre circular buses call at the terminal directly, while Moorfields and James Street are the nearest Merseyrail stations.

Quotes about Liverpool docks

'For more than six weeks, the ship Highlander lay in Prince's Dock; and during that time, besides making observations upon things immediately around me, I made sundry excursions to the neighbouring docks, for I never tired of admiring them.
Previous to this, having only seen the miserable wooden wharves, and slip-shod, shambling piers of New York, the sight of these mighty docks filled my young mind with wonder and delight...
In Liverpool, I beheld long China walls of masonry; vast piers of stone; and a succession of granite-rimmed docks, completely inclosed, and many of them communicating, which almost recalled to mind the great American chain of lakes: Ontario, Erie, St. Clair, Huron, Michigan, and Superior. The extent and solidity of these structures, seemed equal to what I had read of the old Pyramids of Egypt...
For miles you may walk along that river-side, passing dock after dock, like a chain of immense fortresses:—Prince's, George's, Salt-House, Clarence, Brunswick, Trafalgar, King's, Queen's, and many more.'
Herman Melville, Redburn - his first voyage, 1849

It is a region, this seven-mile sequence of granite-lipped lagoons, which is invested ... with some conspicuous properties of romance; and yet its romance is never of just that quality one might perhaps expect ... Neither of the land nor of the sea, but possessing both the stability of the one and the constant flux of the other—too immense, too filled with the vastness of the outer, to carry any sense of human handicraft—this strange territory of the Docks seems, indeed, to form a kind of fifth element, a place charged with daemonic issues and daemonic silences, where men move like puzzled slaves, fretting under orders they cannot understand, fumbling with great forces that have long passed out of their control ...
Walter Dixon Scott, Liverpool, 1907[4]
...Liverpool is the biggest port ... there was something to see from Dingle up to Bootle, and as far again as Birkenhead on the other side. Yellow water, bellowing steam ferries, white trans-atlantic liners, towers, cranes, stevedores, skiffs, shipyards, trains, smoke, chaos, hooting, ringing, hammering, puffing, the ruptured bellies of the ships, the stench of horses, the sweat, urine, and waste from all the continents of the world ... And if I heaped up words for another half an hour, I wouldn't achieve the full number, confusion and expanse which is called Liverpool.
Karel Capek, Letters from England, 1924[4]


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