Port of Wismar
Review and History

The Port of Wismar lies on Wismarbucht (Wismar Bay) off the Baltic Sea in northern Germany. East of the Port of Lubeck, Wismar is a small port with a well-protected natural harbor. Although many buildings were damaged during World War II, the town’s medieval center survived and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002.

Being a junction of both road and rail, the Port of Wismar is an industrial center for the manufacture of vehicle parts, machinery, metal products, furniture, precision instruments, and foodstuffs. It is also an increasingly popular center for tourism. In 2003, almost 46 thousand people lived in the Port of Wismar.

Port History

Said to have received its civic rights in 1229, the Port of Wismar was officially chartered sometime before 1250 AD. By 1301, it was part of Mecklenburg.

The Port of Wismar joined Lubeck and Rostock by pact in 1259 to defend the area from pirates who sailed the Baltic Sea. This union later became the Hanseatic League. As a member of the Hanseatic League, most of the Port’s early trade was in beer and herring. The Port of Wismar flourished under the Hanseatic League for two centuries.

The city came under the rule of Sweden in 1648 under the Peace of Westphalia. It was home to the highest court for part of Sweden from 1653. Sweden sold the town to Mecklenberg in 1803, but it did not give up its claims to the Port of Wismar until 1903. The city retains some remnants of its former status, including the right to its own flag.

In the early 19th Century, the Port of Wismar was a center for the manufacture of iron, paper, machinery, asphalt, and roofing felt. With a deep harbor, it was also engaged in sea-based trade, exporting grains, butter, and oil seeds and importing coal, iron, and timber.

Being the location for an important aviation plant and rail factories, the Port of Wismar was a target for Allied bombing during World War II. It was occupied by forces of the British Commonwealth in 1945, but it became part of the Soviet Occupation Zone.

After World War II, the channel and port were expanded greatly. New shipyards were opened and then modernized after German reunification.

Sea trade was already important to the area in the 11th Century, and the Port of Wismar first was mentioned in a 1211 imperial document. The king authorized the construction of a port there in 1266. Town documents refer to shipping inspections in the mid-16th Century. When Sweden made the Port of Wismar an important fortress, the port was used exclusively by the Swedish navy.

Pilot services started in the Port of Wismar in 1657 when trade was re-established by Sweden’s Queen Christina. In the late 17th Century, the basin was excavated to accommodate larger vessels of the time. However, the Great Nordic War of the early 18th Century desolated the port and left it and the estuary in poor condition.

Work began to deepen the basin in 1845, and construction on a new port was undertaken in 1848. In 1905, much of the area was paved, making it suitable for efficient cargo-handling. As industrialization matured in the late 19th Century, the Port of Wismar experienced considerable movement of trade through the port; however, its hinterland was not very productive, leaving the port relatively unimportant for the German economy.

Redevelopment was undertaken beginning after the war in 1946, when the major cargoes were potash and timber. Refurbishing in 1951 was followed by the construction of a grain quay and automated handling facilities in the late 1950s. Expansions continued from 1960 to 1984, when cargo volume reached 4.9 million tons.

The political changes of the late 1980s and early 1990s brought a decrease in traffic to the Port of Wismar as the Soviet planned economy was discontinued. In the late 1990s, investments and niche marketing for bulk cargo has created a revival for the Port of Wismar. New wood-processing companies located in the area, creating a new cargo sector for the port.

In 2004, cargo volumes surpassed three million tons. In just two years, cargo-handling volume reached four million tons.

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