A look back at Sheerness & Great Yarmouth Ports

11 October 2021

Daniel Edwards, Peel Ports’ Head of Sales for the South East Cluster takes a quick look back at the fascinating history of the Ports of Sheerness and Great Yarmouth, within our London Medway cluster, and the influential role they’ve played over the years.

As a relatively new addition to the sales team, I’ve been fascinated by the incredible history of the ports I look after.

Many people today would look at Sheerness, the port strategically located in the South East and close to our capital city, as a forward looking hub which offers access, connectivity and versatility to this thriving part of Britain.

The port originally dates as far back as 1660, but not many people know that the initial construction of Sheerness Docks was carried out between 1823 and 1830 at a cost of approximately £2.5 million, which would have been a mind boggling figure back then.

Bluetown, where Sheerness Docks is based, was established around 1738 and was so-called because of the grey-blue paint purloined from the dockyard which the workers used to paint the exterior of their houses.

Over a 225 year period, more than 100 ships were built at Sheerness including the HMS Gannet in 1878, now the only surviving Sheerness built ship which can now be seen at Chatham Historic Dockyard.

During World War I, and like many other ports in Britain, shipbuilding ceased at Sheerness to allow the yard to focus on a new role of refitting torpedo boats and destroyers. And, in World War II, a flotilla of minesweepers were based at Sheerness.

Despite its east coast position, Sheerness dockyard remained free of any air raids and emerged unscathed.

Today, our modern Port of Sheerness builds on this proud legacy as a key hub for international trade and, together with Chatham, provide over 450 acres of facilities to serve the needs of our customers across the South East and beyond.

In contrast, Great Yarmouth started life as part of the flourishing herring fishing industry that no longer exists.

In the 1960’s it saw a huge uptake for oil from the North Sea with a thriving oil rig supply industry. During World War I, Great Yarmouth suffered the first aerial bombardment in the UK by a Zeppelin.

Today, offshore wind power and other renewable sources make up the primary commodities for the port. The new Outer Harbour consists of 2 breakwaters with a total length of approximately 1400m, made up of 900,000 tons of rock.

The London Medway cluster handles a vast array of cargo including automotive, steel, timber, paper and Project Cargo, as well as having the ability to process RoRo and LoLo cargo.