Port of Barcelona
Review and History

The Port of Barcelona lies on Spain's Mediterranean coast between the rivers Llobregat and Besos about 150 kilometers south of the country's border with France. The Port of Barcelona is about 140 nautical miles north of Mallorca and some 200 nautical miles southwest of France's Port of Marseille. The capital of the Catalonia region, the Port of Barcelona is the second biggest city and the biggest seaport in Spain as well as an important cultural, educational, commercial, and industrial center. In 2005, almost 1.6 million people lived in the Port of Barcelona.

A seaport since before the 11th Century, the Port of Barcelona has a long history of trade. It was also one of the first cities in Europe to enter the Industrial Revolution based on the manufacture of textiles. Manufacturing has also been important to the history of the Port of Barcelona, and modern Barcelona is home to manufacturers of textiles, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, electronics, and motors. Other important industries include printing, publishing, logistics, information technology, and telecommunications. With a rich tradition in craftsmanship and creative arts, the Port of Barcelona has become a center for industrial design, hosting many international trade shows each year.

Port History

There are different legends about the foundation of the Port of Barcelona. One claims that Hercules founded the city some 400 years before Rome was built. The other says that the father of Carthaginian Hannibal founded the city in the 3rd Century BC. Others believe that the Phoenicians established a trading post there. Historians know that the Port of Barcelona was named after Carthaginian leader Hamilcar Barca who lived from 275 to 228 BC.

A relatively unimportant Roman colony called Colonia Faventia Julia Augusta Pia Barcino existed on the site. The colony began to grow in importance in the 3rd Century AD, and walls were built around it in 263 to defend from barbarian invasions. As Rome failed, the Visigoths occupied the city for three centuries, calling it Barcinona, until the Moors arrived in 717 AD.

Called Barjelunah by the Moors, the Port of Barcelona was an attractive target for the Carolingian Franks who took it over in 801 AD, when Barcelona became the southern edge of their power. Although forces of the Umayyad Caliphate sacked the city in 985, the Frankish Counts of Barcelona held the city through the 10th and 11th Centuries.

In the 12th Century, Barcelona and the principality of Catalonia united with the Kingdom of Aragon, and the Port of Barcelona became an important trading center.

From 1164 through 1285, the Port of Barcelona became the Kingdom of Aragon's maritime capital. The Royal Shipyard known as Drassanes was constructed. In 1378, the Port of Barcelona was a common anchoring site for vessels traveling the Mediterranean coast. However, heavy winds caused many ships to wreck, and the citizens of the Port of Barcelona decided to build a safer artificial harbor so that maritime commerce could continue and grow. In 1438, King Alfonso V the Magnanimous gave Barcelona permission to build and port and wharves. Work began that year, but heavy storms quickly destroyed their work.

When the Black Death arrived in Spain in the 14th Century, the Port of Barcelona suffered and went into decline. Naples became the capital of the united Catalan-Aragon kingdom in 1442. The Port of Barcelona's influence was further damaged by the rise of the Habsburg monarchy, the growth of the Turks in the Mediterranean region, and the discovery of the New World.

In 1477, under the reign of Juan II, the first wharf was begun in the Port of Barcelona. The east dock was the main port shelter, and lands were reclaimed to the south and southwest to expand the port. Seamen and fishermen established homes in the new areas.

After the early 18th Century, Charles III of Austria established his court in the Port of Barcelona, staking his claim on the throne of Spain during the War of Spanish Succession. Spain's Philip V laid siege to the Port of Barcelona, and it fell to him in 1714. Philip denied any form of self-government to the captured city.

In 1723, the Port of Barcelona began to grow when the east dock was extended and the Linterna tower was built. Unfortunately, silting was a major problem, and the Port of Barcelona remained fairly stagnant until a breakwater was constructed in 1882. About this time, the cotton industry began to develop, from which the Port of Barcelona benefitted greatly during the 18th Century.

War with France devastated the Port of Barcelona, and Napoleon occupied the Port of Barcelona in from 1808 until 1813. However, the industrial age arrived in Barcelona. Development of the textile industry made the Port of Barcelona a leader in the industrial sector and made Catalonia the richest region in Spain.

New jobs brought many people to the Port of Barcelona, and the industrial workers and the bourgeoisie found it difficult to live together. The Anarchist movement so popular in Europe in the 19th Century flourished in the Port of Barcelona. In 1835, several convents were burned. Riots revealed the workers' resentment of the use of automated machinery in the mid-1850s. The "Tragic Week" in 1909 resulted in more church burnings.

In 1868, a Royal Decree opened the way for improvements in the Port of Barcelona. The Works Committee began a plan to dredge the port. At last, Barcelona would have a modern port. The Port of Barcelona covered a surface-water area of 110 hectares. By 1882, today's Barcelona wharf had been established.

Despite the civil unrest, Catalonia supplied almost half of Spain's imports in the early 20th Century. Prosperity led to calls for self-rule, and the Port of Barcelona enjoyed a period of relative independence from 1913 until 1923. In 1926, new work on the east dock was completed.

Barcelona was the site for the declaration of Catalonia as a republic in 1931. In 1936 when the Spanish Civil War erupted, the Port of Barcelona was a stronghold for the Republicans. Its fall in early 1939 ended in the Republican's surrender. For many years after that, the city and the region lost many privileges, including the prohibition of the Catalan language.

In 1958, the Port of Barcelona began to expand to the south. By 1962, the port had a new outer seawall. By 1968, the Port of Barcelona had an extnernal sheltered harbor area covering 500 hectares of water surface.

It was 1977 before the autonomous Catalan government was restored and the Port of Barcelona began to hope for further development. Hosting the 1992 Olympic Games was a boon to the Port of Barcelona, as the city renovated the waterfront and added a new promenade and marina. New restaurants appeared, the beaches were cleaned up and developed, and the city re-claimed its historic culture.

In 1992, the State Port and Merchant Navy was abolished, and the State Public Ports organization was created to coordinate and control the port system. Separate port authorities were established to manage Spain's ports, and the Port of Barcelona was renamed the Port Authority of Barcelona. Since the early 1990s, the Port of Barcelona has become a popular tourist destination, and it has ample facilities to accommodate as many as 11 cruise ships. The number of cruise vessel calls and passengers has increased each year, making the Port of Barcelona one of the most important European tourist ports.

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