CITY QUAYS BELFAST HARBOUR

PHOTOGRAPHED BY WILLIAM MURPHY

CITY QUAYS BELFAST HARBOUR



City Quays is Belfast's newest and most modern mixed-use regeneration project, providing commercial offices in City Quays 1 and City Quays 2, shops, cafes, restaurants and other local services and the new AC Hotel by Marriott Belfast right on Belfast's waterfront.

At 250,000 square feet, City Quays 3 will be one of the largest offices to be developed in Northern Ireland. The £46m project will provide space for up to 3,000 workers across 16 storeys and support up to 600 jobs during construction.

In May 2017 a planning application was lodged for City Quays 3. Subject to planning approval it’s anticipated that construction work will begin at the end of this year with completion anticipated in late 2019. City Quays 3 is the latest development to be taken forward by Belfast Harbour and will join office buildings City Quays 1 and 2, and a 188-bedroom AC by Marriot hotel.

Belfast Harbour is Northern Ireland's principal maritime gateway and logistics hub, serving the Northern Ireland economy and increasingly that of the Republic of Ireland. Around 70% of Northern Ireland's and 20% of the entire island's seabourne trade is handled at the Harbour each year.

Belfast Harbour's origins date back to 1613 when a Royal Charter for the incorporation of Belfast specified the need for a wharf at the confluence of the rivers Lagan and Farset in what is modern-day Belfast’s High Street.

Records show that by 1663 there were 29 vessels owned in Belfast with a total tonnage of 1,100 tonnes. Trade continued to expand throughout the century, to the extent that the original quay was enlarged, to accommodate the increasing number of ships.

By the early 18th century Belfast had replaced Carrickfergus as the most important port in Ulster and additional accommodation was necessary. A number of privately owned wharves were subsequently constructed on reclaimed land. Throughout the century trade continued to expand as Belfast assumed a greater role in the trading activities of the country as a whole. In 1785 the Irish Parliament passed an act to deal with the town's burgeoning port. As a result, a new body was constituted: The Corporation for Preserving and Improving the Port and Harbour of Belfast, commonly called 'the Ballast Board'.

Although already well established by this stage, the Port remained disadvantaged by the natural restrictions of shallow water, bends in the channel approach and inadequate quays. These problems, together with an increasing volume of trade, led to a new government act of 1837 under the Westminster Parliament. This reconstituted the Board and gave it powers to improve the port, through the formation of a new channel. Initial work on straightening the river commenced in 1839 and by 1841 the first bend had been eliminated. Thus beginning the creation of what was to become known as the Victoria Channel.

In 1847 the Belfast Harbour Act repealed previous acts and led to the formation of the Belfast Harbour Commissioners. This new body, with much wider powers, completed the second stage of the new channel two years later. From that time the Commissioners have developed and improved the Port, reclaiming land to accommodate new quays, new trades and changes in shipping and cargo-handling technology.

During World War II the Port of Belfast was used by the Royal Navy as the home base for many of the ships that escorted Atlantic and Russian convoys including Captain-class frigates of the 3rd Escort Group. HMS Caroline is a First World War light cruiser permanently berthed in Belfast Harbour and currently serves as the training ship for some 130 reservists as the headquarters for the Ulster Division Royal Naval Reserve. She is the second oldest commissioned warship in the Royal Navy.

Belfast West Power Station (formerly Power Station West) was opened in 1961 on a site in the port subleased to the Belfast Corporation Electricity Department. This subleased is today held by Northern Ireland Electricity. The station continued to generate electricity until its closure in March 2002. On 6 July 2007 the station's three 240 ft (73 m) chimneys were demolished by controlled explosion and the remainder of the site was cleared in the following months. The site continues to be managed by NIE on behalf of the utility regulator which has stated that the various conditions of the lease "suggest that the best use for the site going forward is electrical generation."