An interconnected dock system was built while the Old Docks were still open, and many civil engineers placed the system at the time as the most advanced in the world. The clever use of locks and a hydraulic power network helped keep these docks apart from the Mersey tide, meaning the dock could be used 24 hours a day.
The existence of these docks has helped UNESCO acquire some areas of the port designated as World Heritage Sites. Liverpool Maritime Mercantile City was granted World Heritage status in 2004, incorporating Pier Head, Albert Dock and William Brown Street.
Liverpool’s first dock area was the Thomas Steakers’ Dock (also known as the Old Dock), which opened to trade in 1716. This dock took 5 years to build and was the first commercial wet dock in the world. It provided space for 100 ships. This greatly increased the business capacity of the city. However, the volume of the business soon ran out of dock capacity and an alternative solution was sought. The old docks were heavily polluted and the waterways were too narrow to allow easy passage of ships. The original dock was closed and eventually filled in the mid-nineteenth century.
Liverpool and Sailor go hand in hand with each other. The dock and port area of the city has played an incredibly important role in the history of the area. Without these docks, it is unlikely that Liverpool would have grown to the size that it did, or that it would have enjoyed economic prosperity during the last millennium.
One of the most famous docks in the harbor is the Albert Dock. When the dock was opened in 1846, it was the first dock of its kind. The design allowed ships to load and unload directly into warehouse buildings. This helped speed up the business process and allowed more ships to pass through the docking area. Shortly after opening it, the system was adapted to introduce the world’s first examples of hydraulic cranes. These cranes helped to improve the loading and unloading capabilities of the port.
By World War II, the docks were already beginning to fall into decline as other docks began to surpass the technological advances already made. During the war, Albert Dock was required by the Royal Navy, due to which the complex was regularly targeted by bombing. It was badly damaged, and never recovered its former business glory. Albert Dock has since been redeveloped as a tourist attraction and features on most of Liverpool’s tourist routes.
Each dock has its own quirks and unique touches. For example, the Seaforth Dock, currently the first dock in the sequence, was the largest lock gate in the world when the docks were opened! Another example, The King’s Dock, was used as a concert venue for the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, as it was closed for business. The region’s unique acoustics helped the orchestra perform amazing outdoor concerts during the summer months.
As the needs of the city have changed, new docks have been built and other docks have also been filled. Between 10 -15 of the docks have now been filled or closed to form the ground of the building. Some of the docks were very badly damaged during World War II air strikes. The dock was frequently targeted during this conflict, as the dock system played an important role in the trade and military strategy of the United Kingdom. This has helped shape the changing landscape of the city.
Despite his previous position as world leader, the Port of Liverpool’s trade status has now somewhat diminished. At one time, 40% of the world’s slave trade was passing through Liverpool. Changes in the supply and demand for certain types of goods, and the abolition of the slave trade in the nineteenth century, meant that Liverpool became less important as a port. In 2014, the port was ranked as the sixth busiest port in the UK, based on the raw tonnage of freight handled during the 12 months.