Portsmouth Harbour
Portsmouth Harbour is a large natural harbour in Hampshire
Hampshire is a county on the southern coast of England in the United Kingdom. The county town of Hampshire is Winchester, a historic cathedral city that was once the capital of England. Hampshire is notable for housing the original birthplaces of the Royal Navy, British Army, and Royal Air Force...

, England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

. Geographically it is a ria
A ria is a coastal inlet formed by the partial submergence of an unglaciated river valley. It is a drowned river valley that remains open to the sea. Typically, rias have a dendritic, treelike outline although they can be straight and without significant branches. This pattern is inherited from the...

: formerly it was the valley of a stream flowing from Portsdown into the Solent River. The city of Portsmouth
Portsmouth is the second largest city in the ceremonial county of Hampshire on the south coast of England. Portsmouth is notable for being the United Kingdom's only island city; it is located mainly on Portsea Island...

 lies to the east on Portsea Island
Portsea Island
Portsea Island is a small, flat and low lying island just off the south coast of England. The island is totally within, and contains a large proportion of, the city of Portsmouth. It has the third-largest population of any island in the British Isles, after the mainlands of Great Britain and...

, and Gosport
Gosport is a town, district and borough situated on the south coast of England, within the county of Hampshire. It has approximately 80,000 permanent residents with a further 5,000-10,000 during the summer months...

 to the west on the mainland. At its north end is Portchester Castle
Portchester Castle
Portchester Castle is a medieval castle built within a former Roman fort at Portchester to the east of Fareham in the English county of Hampshire. Probably founded in the late 11th century, Portchester was a baronial castle that was taken under royal control in 1154. The monarchy controlled...

, of Roman
Roman Britain
Roman Britain was the part of the island of Great Britain controlled by the Roman Empire from AD 43 until ca. AD 410.The Romans referred to the imperial province as Britannia, which eventually comprised all of the island of Great Britain south of the fluid frontier with Caledonia...

 origin and the first fortress built to protect the harbour.

The mouth of the harbour provides access to the Solent
The Solent is a strait separating the Isle of Wight from the mainland of England.The Solent is a major shipping route for passengers, freight and military vessels. It is an important recreational area for water sports, particularly yachting, hosting the Cowes Week sailing event annually...

. It is best known as the home of the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

, HMNB Portsmouth
HMNB Portsmouth
Her Majesty's Naval Base Portsmouth is one of three operating bases in the United Kingdom for the British Royal Navy...

. Because of its strategic location on the south coast of England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, protected by the natural defence of the Isle of Wight
Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight is a county and the largest island of England, located in the English Channel, on average about 2–4 miles off the south coast of the county of Hampshire, separated from the mainland by a strait called the Solent...

, it has since the Middle Ages been the home to England's (and later Britain's
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

) navy. The narrow entrance, and the forts surrounding it gave it a considerable advantage of being virtually impregnable to attack from the sea. Before the fortifications were built the French burned Portsmouth in 1338. During the civil war parliamentary forces were able to carry out a successful cutting-out expedition within the harbour and capture the six-gunned Henrietta Marie.

In modern times, the harbour has become a major commercial ferry
A ferry is a form of transportation, usually a boat, but sometimes a ship, used to carry primarily passengers, and sometimes vehicles and cargo as well, across a body of water. Most ferries operate on regular, frequent, return services...

 port, with regular services to Le Havre, France, Cherbourg, France, St Malo, France
Saint-Malo is a walled port city in Brittany in northwestern France on the English Channel. It is a sub-prefecture of the Ille-et-Vilaine.-Demographics:The population can increase to up to 200,000 in the summer tourist season...

, The Channel Islands and the Isle of Wight. There is a passenger ferry
Gosport Ferry
The Gosport Ferry is a ferry service operating between Gosport pontoon and Portsmouth pontoon in Hampshire, southern England. It is currently operated by Gosport Ferry Ltd, a subsidiary of the Portsmouth Harbour Ferry Company plc, itself a wholly owned subsidiary of Falkland Islands Holdings,...

 to Gosport
Gosport is a town, district and borough situated on the south coast of England, within the county of Hampshire. It has approximately 80,000 permanent residents with a further 5,000-10,000 during the summer months...

. It is also a major area for leisure sailing. Recently, a large area of the former naval dockyard has been redeveloped into the Gunwharf Quays
Gunwharf Quays
Gunwharf Quays is an area of Portsmouth, Hampshire, now home to a large shopping centre.- History:The centre opened on 28 February 2001 and is located on the site of the former Royal Navy shore establishment HMS Vernon, renamed HMS Nelson on March 31, 1986...

 development, including the Spinnaker Tower
Spinnaker Tower
Spinnaker Tower is a –high landmark tower in Portsmouth, England. It is the centrepiece of the redevelopment of Portsmouth Harbour, which was supported by a National Lottery grant. Its shape was chosen by Portsmouth residents from a selection of concepts...



Portsmouth Harbour contains a number of islands. Whale Island
Whale Island, Hampshire
Whale Island is a small island in Portsmouth Harbour, close by Portsea Island. It is currently home to HMS Excellent, the oldest shore training establishment within the Royal Navy, and the Headquarters of Commander in Chief, Fleet.-Early history:...

 is the home of the HMS Excellent training establishment. Horsea Island
Horsea Island
Horsea Island was an island located off the northern shore of Portsmouth Harbour; gradually subsumed by reclamation, it is now connected to the mainland...

 is now connected to the mainland due to land reclamation. It is also part of the HMS Excellent establishment. Pewit Island
Pewit Island (Portsmouth Harbour)
Pewit Island is a small island located in the north western section of Portsmouth Harbour. Historically it appears to have been connected to the mainland via a manmade shingle causeway, parts of which still exist...

 is a small island located in the north western section of Portsmouth Harbour. Closer to the harbour enterance on the gosport side is Burrow Island
Burrow Island
Burrow Island is a tidal island in Portsmouth harbour. At low tide a spit connects it with Priddy's Hard.It has been suggested that the name dates from the 17th century and is derived from being within the then borough of Portsmouth.In between 1678 and 1679 a fortification named Fort James was...

 also known as Rat Island.


Portsmouth investigated three locations for a ferry port at the end of the 1960s and the current location was chosen. The choice was based on cost and the likely benefit of cross-channel ferries. The site was at the end of the newly constructed M275. Originally built with two berths the site opened in 1976 with the Earl William (Sealink
Sealink was a ferry company based in the United Kingdom from 1970 to 1984, operating services to France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Channel Islands, Isle of Wight and Ireland....

) running to the Channel Islands, the Viking Victory (Townsend Thoresen) running to Cherbourg and the Armorique("Brittany Ferries
Brittany Ferries
Brittany Ferries is a French ferry company that runs ships between France, the UK, Ireland and Spain.-1970s and 1980s:Following the provision of the deep-water port at Roscoff, the company commenced in January 1973 at the instigation of Alexis Gourvennec, when existing ferry companies showed...

") running to Saint-Malo.


All three operators increased their usage of the port during the mid-eighties, which led to expansion. An additional two berths were built, both twin tier. Berth 2 was filled and a new Berth 2 built, which was mainly used by the Earl Granville (Sealink) running to both the Channel Islands and Cherbourg, Berth 1 become more tight to use and the newly roll-on, roll-off Commodore Shipping used it for their Channel Island freight services. Berth 3 was left incomplete while Berth 4 was finished. This was generally considered the Brittany Ferries berth. When Berth 3 was finished Townsend Thoresen moved their passenger operation entirely from Southampton
Southampton is the largest city in the county of Hampshire on the south coast of England, and is situated south-west of London and north-west of Portsmouth. Southampton is a major port and the closest city to the New Forest...

 to Portsmouth. Shortly afterwards, Townsend Thoresen bought P&O
P&O may refer to:* Pickling and oiling raw steel.* Phosphate conversion coating and oiling aluminium, zinc, cadmium, silver, or tin.-Shipping:* Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, a former British shipping and logistics company....

 (Normandy Ferries) and relocated them to Portsmouth. The old Southampton Ferry port was then converted to a marina.

The continued use of Portsmouth saw the creation of Berth 5 and the final stage of development. Portsmouth had seen additional ferry companies Channel Island Ferries, Hoverspeed
Hoverspeed, formed in 1981 by the merger of Seaspeed and Hoverlloyd, was a ferry company that operated on the English Channel from 1981 until 2005....

 and Truckline and new routes to Caen
Caen is a commune in northwestern France. It is the prefecture of the Calvados department and the capital of the Basse-Normandie region. It is located inland from the English Channel....

, Santander
Santander, Cantabria
The port city of Santander is the capital of the autonomous community and historical region of Cantabria situated on the north coast of Spain. Located east of Gijón and west of Bilbao, the city has a population of 183,446 .-History:...

 and Bilbao
Bilbao ) is a Spanish municipality, capital of the province of Biscay, in the autonomous community of the Basque Country. With a population of 353,187 , it is the largest city of its autonomous community and the tenth largest in Spain...

. With the advent of the Channel Tunnel
Channel Tunnel
The Channel Tunnel is a undersea rail tunnel linking Folkestone, Kent in the United Kingdom with Coquelles, Pas-de-Calais near Calais in northern France beneath the English Channel at the Strait of Dover. At its lowest point, it is deep...

 and the abolition of Duty Free most of the companies disappeared. Sealink merged their Channel Island operations with the newly created Channel Island Ferries to create British Channel Island Ferries. They then later relocated operations to Poole
Poole is a large coastal town and seaport in the county of Dorset, on the south coast of England. The town is east of Dorchester, and Bournemouth adjoins Poole to the east. The Borough of Poole was made a unitary authority in 1997, gaining administrative independence from Dorset County Council...

 before merging into Condor Ferries. Sealink operated to Cherbourg with the Earl Granville for several further years until the Earl Granville violently ran aground off Cherbourg. Hoverspeed ran the HOVERSPEED GB from Portsmouth to Cherbourg intermittently one summer - often the "new ferry of the future" was out of action and the now repaired but ageing Earl Granville would step into the breach - much to passenger annoyance.


By 2000 Portsmouth only had ferries from Brittany Ferries, Condor and P&O. P&O replaced the aging Super Vikings with a Ro-pax ship and a Sea-Cat on the Portsmouth-Cherbourg route, but by 2006 P&O had all but closed its operation from Portsmouth but retained the route to Bilbao and Portsmouth became a quiet port again.

After P&O Ferries withdrawal from the Le Havre route in September 2005 a new company stepped in to replace them with LD Lines running one sailing a day to Le Havre
Le Havre
Le Havre is a city in the Seine-Maritime department of the Haute-Normandie region in France. It is situated in north-western France, on the right bank of the mouth of the river Seine on the English Channel. Le Havre is the most populous commune in the Haute-Normandie region, although the total...

with the Norman Spirit.

The Spanish ferry company Acciona tried briefly in 2006 to compete on the northern Spain route to Bilbao using their ferry the Fortuny, but it lasted 3 months before closure.


Today, Brittany Ferries operates a three times daily service to Caen, daily to St Malo, and offers a high-speed seasonal service to Cherbourg, which runs twice daily except on Friday, Saturday & Sunday when it is reduced to daily. An extra morning service to Caen is scheduled. Brittany Ferries also has four sailings a week to Spain with two departures to Bilbao and two to Santander.

LD Lines offers a daily link to Le Havre with additional capacity added by the catamaran Norman Arrow during the high summer months offering one round trip a day.

Condor Ferries have two sailings a day to the Channel Islands with a morning sailing to the Islands with the passenger and freight ferry Commodore Clipper and an evening sailing to the islands with the freight-only ferry Commodore Goodwill.

The sole remaining P&O service to Bilbao ceased in September 2010 but has since been replaced by Brittany Ferries as of April 2011 with two sailings a week using their modern and fast ferry Cap Finistere which can make the trip from Portsmouth to Bilbao in 24 hours with a top cruising speed of 27 knots.
On 10 May 2011 the New Terminal building at the newly renamed Portsmouth International Port' was opened by Vince Cable MP. As well as the regular ferry sailings there are 33 small liners booked to berth at the port during 2011

External links

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