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Harbour House
Marine Parade
CT17 9BU
  Tel: +44 (0) 1304 240 400

For all lost property enquires, please contact:

  Tel: +44 (0) 1304 245 392
  Email: property.office@doverport.co.uk



For all media enquiries, please contact the Corporate Affairs team:

  TEL: +44 (0) 1304 240 400 Ext. 4410
  E-mail: communications@doverport.co.uk



The Port of Dover Police can be contacted 24 hours a day and 365 days of the year, please contact:

Port of Dover Police
Floor 4. Terminal Control Building,
Eastern Docks,
Dover, Kent,
CT16 1JA

  TEL: +44 (0) 1304 216 084
  FAX: +44 (0) 1304 241 956
  E-mail: police@doverport.co.uk

The History of the Port of Dover

The Port of Dover, situated on the South East tip of England and in close proximity to the Continent, has always been of importance to cross-Channel traffic and the history and origins of the Port can be traced right back to Roman times. The deep cleft in the hills formed in prehistoric times by the River Dour, has always given protection to the small ships plying across the Strait.

The Commentaries of Julius Caesar mention the "Haven between the Hills" and evidence that the Romans used the port exists to-day in the form of the "Pharos", or lighthouse, on the cliffs on the East side of the valley.

Throughout history Royalty has taken a keen interest in the Port of Dover. Richard Coeur de Lion departed from Dover on the Third Crusade and, in 1422, Henry V was brought back through Dover after his death in France. Following his departure from Dover to meet the French King at the "Field of the Cloth of Gold", King Henry VIII became interested in improving the Harbour and ordered that the promontory be extended to form a pier. The work however, was never fully completed, as the still water in the lee of the pier caused a deposit of shingle across the front of the bay.

During the 300 years that followed, many schemes were put forward in an endeavour to prevent or cure this problem.

Royal Charter

Royal Charter

King James I gave Dover Harbour Board its Royal Charter in 1606 placing the Lord Warden and his "Board" in charge of running the Port and since then the constitution of the Board has been changed on a number of occasions by Acts of Parliament to its present status of eight, a Chairman, and four other members appointed by the Secretary of State, two ex officio members and an eighth member appointed by the other seven.

The present Board was created and incorporated by statute and is, therefore, a statutory body and has no shareholders to whom it is answerable.

At the beginning of the 19th Century, it was proposed that a haven of refuge for the fleet should be constructed in Dover Bay and, in 1847, the Government commenced the construction of the Admiralty Pier, which was envisaged as the Western Arm of this proposed haven. This effectively stopped the silting of the harbour mouth, as it cut off the easterly drift of shingle from the direction of Folkestone.

The construction of the harbour of refuge was taken a step further in 1897, when construction commenced on the Eastern Arm, the Southern Breakwater and the extension to the Admiralty Pier.

This work, which is generally acknowledged to be one of the greatest feats in port construction of its time, was completed in 1909. The walls and piers were built of large blocks weighing from 30 to 40 tons. These blocks were made of concrete, with a granite facing to those that were to be placed on the outside faces of the walls above water level.

The gradual development of the port throughout the centuries has produced the vast artificial harbour of to-day, with depths of water up to 10.5 metres and accommodation for shipping up to 300 metres in length. The total area, owned by the Dover Harbour Board, is approximately 1050 acres, of which 700 is water.


Recent History

Since the Second World War, considerable development has taken place at the port to keep pace with the demands from passengers, tourist cars, and roll-on roll-off freight.

Within a few years of the opening of drive-on, drive-off facilities, it quickly became apparent that the dramatic increase in car and coach traffic through Dover would soon swamp available land space. In the mid 1960s land was reclaimed at the Eastern Docks seawards of the original customs hall and terminal buildings and a new berth was constructed. The berth, No.4, was a new generation double-deck, single-width type which allowed for two lanes of vehicles to be loaded or discharged simultaneously. It was opened in 1965 but is now occasionally utilised as a berth for small cruise/cargo vessels.

By the late 1960s it became increasingly obvious that further increases in traffic, especially as ro-ro freight had arrived on the scene, Dover Harbour Board would have to provide additionally ferry berths. Work on No. 3 Berth, another double-deck, single-width, linkspan was begun. Roll-on, roll-off freight came to Dover in 1965, replacing the previous tedious and often expensive procedure of loading a vehicle at the factory, off-loading into the hold of a ship and repeating the process at the foreign port of call. In the first year the Port of Dover handled a few hundred lorries.

In 1953, Dover's first two drive-on drive-off ferry berths were opened at the Eastern Docks. Until then cars and even coaches had been craned on and off ferries. In the first year it was anticipated that we would handle about 10,000 vehicles per year. In fact 10 times that amount materialised.

During the 1970s a new method of crossing the Channel was introduced and in the summer of 1978 a £12m Hoverport was opened at the Western Docks following the reclamation of 15 acres of land. However, it is ferries that have been the mainstay of cross-Channel transport and with the introduction of double-deck berths and further redevelopment of the ferry terminal leading to the opening of Dover's most recent ferry berths in 2005 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the Port has experienced amazing transformation and growth. Furthermore, with the incredible increase in freight traffic, the Port is now a true major international transport hub for the movement of people and goods and is an essential piece of national infrastructure supporting the UK's economy. Today the Port of Dover handles around five million vehicles and 13 million passengers annually.

Whilst Dover's evolution has been impressive, there was a time during the construction of the Channel Tunnel when the Port's future as a ferry port looked uncertain, and it is within that period that we looked to diversify with the introduction of a cruise terminal and a marina.  The Port of Dover is now the UK's second busiest cruise port and our marina achieves the highest ratings in the industry for service and quality.  However, the ferry traffic never left and in fact grew even more following the opening of the Channel Tunnel. In fact, the Port is now delivering an £85 million capital plan to ensure it can handle future volumes of traffic.

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Port of Dover, Harbour House, Marine Parade, Dover, Kent, CT17 9BU
Tel: +44 (0) 1304 240400 Fax: +44 (0) 1304 240465
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