In the Victorian era, there were many coastal places where craft worked off open beaches.
It seems incredible how much of the once comprehensively and uncompromisingly industrial landscape of ports and harbours of Wales, from the Menai Strait to Cardiff Bay, has become, in only a matter of a few years deserted by industry to become a string of so called ‘marinas’ and the resort of the pleasure boats owned by what must be a massive population of leisured and moneyed Brits. Hardly a corner of the magnificent coast line of the principality is not lined with the largely plastic, with some steel and aluminium and still fewer wooden hobby vessels of this huge amateur seafaring populous. Though from my observation of the plethora of moored craft, these are in the main fair weather seafarers, if, indeed, they ever go to sea at all, and many thousands of them don’t seem to.
Many of the port installations are no longer required that were once the invested wealth of some of the richest and best connected industrialists and land owners anywhere in the world, and who were to become richer still from their breathtakingly lucrative investments, in coal and slate, especially which was in demand around the fast developing world, have these installations became the familiar haunt of cargo ships and their crews from around the globe so that Cardiff and Swansea water-fronts became as well known to them as their own hearthsides.
If the whole of the Wales coastline exhibits this phenomenon, in sheer scale, it is greatest in South Wales where the transformation is most profound. As expressed in last months’ Ferry World, the Cardiff waterfront now opens onto the Bay Barrage. Most of the docks built to serve the world’s demand for the quality steam coal coming from the deep pits up the tributary Welsh Valleys have been filled in and the docks built over. The iconic structures dating from the ports’ heyday, in Cardiff this means especially the exquisite coal exchange and the Scandinavian Seamen’s Church, are preserved now as historic and isolated oddities.
There are still good commercial port facilities in South Wales with ABP at Cardiff, Swansea and Newport more than able to cope efficiently with the traffic on offer and the marina business certainly does not detract from them.
There was no doubt about the continuing importance of Milford Havens’ oil and gas terminals as they were despatching parcels coastal and to Irish ports and receiving crude oil from various sources. In great evidence was the Maersk Coastal tanker subsidiary Danish flag ‘Bro’ Tankers’ with Bro Nuuk (I believe an inuit name) arriving to load passing Bro Developer and Bro Designer were loading simultaneously. I understand the latter were due shortly to serve Belfast and Dublin. As I write, Bro Nuuk is loading at Finnart on Loch Long.