History

A WORLD-CLASS PORT, CENTURIES IN THE MAKING.

Set in the best natural haven on England’s east coast, Harwich has played a vital role in Britain’s maritime history for centuries.

Always accessible, whatever the tide or weather, Harwich Haven was much valued in the 19th century by the masters of sailing ships seeking shelter – and it has remained one of the UK’s most important deep-water harbours.

Harwich’s role as a packet station for the carriage of passengers and mail to the Netherlands dates back at least to the 17th century. But it was a bold decision by the Great Eastern Railway Company in the second half of the 19th century to transform the port and set the foundations for what is today Harwich International, a world-class deep-water facility.


Britain's most important passenger port

The railway company, anxious to expand its operations, decided to create an entirely new port based on the reclaimed marshland of Ray Island. Parkeston Quay was opened in 1883 and quickly became Britain’s most important passenger port, linking England with Belgium and the Netherlands.

Throughout the 20th century and into the 21st, Harwich International has retained its close ties with Europe, with Ro-Ro ferry links for both passengers and freight to ports in the Netherlands, Germany and Scandinavia.


But it has also diversified and today’s activities encompass liquid and dry bulks, general cargo, containers and a thriving cruise business.

In 1998, Harwich International was acquired by Hutchison Ports and marked a new and exciting chapter in the port’s history. 

1939 - 1883
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1883

Parkeston Quay is officially opened by Charles H. Parkes, Chairman of the Great Eastern Railway Company

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1903

Services begin between Parkeston Quay and the Hook of Holland.

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1938

First Winton Train arrived at Harwich in 1938 bringing 196 children from a Berlin Jewish orphanage

1939

Parkeston Quay is requisitioned by the Admiralty for naval purposes.

1959 - 1940
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1946

The quay suffers extensive damage in air raids during the war.

1979 - 1960

1964

The Carless refinery opens next to the port.

1967

"MS Winston Churchill" is introduced to Harwich – Esbjerg route.

1968

Sister ships ‘Koningin Emma’ and ‘Prinses Beatrix’ had served the Harwich to Hook of Holland route from the end of the Second World War until this year, when they are finally scrapped. This same year sees the route convert to a freight/passenger service with the introduction of the ‘Koningin Juliana’.

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1972

Parkeston Quay Passenger Terminal offically opened

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1974

The 130-metre Ro-Ro ship ‘St Edmund’ comes into service and remains on the Hook of Holland route until being requisitioned by the UK Ministry of Defence in 1982 during the Falklands conflict.

1978

After a naming ceremony in London, ‘MS Dana Anglia’ enters service on the Esbjerg route.

1999 - 1980

1983

The ‘St Nicholas’, the largest Superferry on the North Sea at the time, commences service from Harwich.

1986

Passengers through the port exceed 2 million for the first time this year.

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1987

The ‘Koningin Beatrix’, with capacity for up to 2,100 passengers, joins the Hook of Holland route.

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1989

Passenger Terminal building reburbished and extended

1989

Last call of the MS Braemar and the end of the summer service to Kristiansand, Norway, which had been operated by Fred Olsen Lines since 1967.

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1992

Construction of No2 linkspan is completed, in readiness for vessels of 200 metres in length overall.

1994

The number of trade vehicles moving through the port peaks at nearly 270,000 in a year.

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1997

A £12 million development is completed to accommodate the ‘Stena Discovery’ fast ferry.

1998

Harwich International becomes part of Hutchison Ports (UK) Ltd

1999

29 August sees the simultaneous berthing of three cruise ships.

2019 - 2000

2002

Stena launches a new freight route to Rotterdam in September, providing three crossings per day and coinciding with the opening of a new port access road and freight entrance.

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2002

A fond farewell to the last of the ‘white ships’ serving Harwich, as the ‘Dana Anglia’ and ‘Admiral of Scandinavia’ are replaced by modern ro-pax vessels.

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2002

Dame Judi Dench visits Harwich International Port to christen Carnival Legend.

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2006

First treble call received since 1999

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2007

End of the Stena Line HSS Service.

2009

Harwich is chosen as the construction base for the Greater Gabbard Offshore Wind Farm.

2010

Introduction of Stena Line Superferries onto the Harwich to Hook of Holland route.

2014

End of the DFDS Esbjerg service after over 100 years of operation.

2017

Launch of new corporate identity and website