Once you have lived in Aberdeen for a while, the Harbour somehow becomes part of the landscape – it actually begins to feel normal to pass through the shadow of a huge offshore vessel as you walk down from Union Street to do some shopping or see a movie. But the impact that a harbour can have on a city and its sustainability cannot be ignored.
Incredibly, the first written reference to Aberdeen as a shipping port dates back to the early 1100s, although the waters will have been used for trading purposes even before that. Over the centuries, there have been continual improvements made to the infrastructure, with the greatest changes coming in the 1800s, resulting in the layout we know today which covers 378 acres of land and water, and handles four million tonnes of cargo each year.
With their eye on the future and the need to accommodate ever-growing ships and the city’s changing economic mix, the Harbour Board decided that the time had come once again for major investment. The £350 million state-of-the-art Aberdeen South Harbour project is already underway in Nigg Bay, just south of the existing harbour.
Due to be ready for business in 2020, the new facility will offer a marked step up in marine capacity, with increased water depths, flexible loading facilities along the 1,400 metres of quay, and a significantly wider turning circle for the larger vessels. Understanding the important link between this new project and its impact on the wider community, a visitor centre has been established where members of the public, and other interested groups, can see for themselves how this feat of engineering is progressing. The Visitor Centre is open to the public every Saturday from 10am until 3pm, more detail can be found at ahep.co.uk/VisitorCentre.aspx If you are keen to learn more about the history of the sea and its relationship to Aberdeen, you will want to visit the Aberdeen Maritime Museum, located on the historic Shiprow in a striking building that incorporates Provost Ross’s House from 1593 and offers visitors unrivalled views of the busy harbour just outside. The museum itself spans many floors and covers a wide range of topics from the oil and gas industry to fishing to marine conservation efforts. With free admission, plenty of interactive exhibits and very helpful staff, the museum is a great way to spend an afternoon.
In a coastal North Sea city like Aberdeen, it is actually unusual to meet someone whose life has not been impacted in some way by the sea and the industries that rely on it. The next time you pass through the shadow of the ships in Aberdeen Harbour, pause for a moment to reflect on
the history that has made the harbour what it is today, and the efforts being made to make it great for future generations.