|Date||11 February 2013|
|Location||Dover, Kent||TR 33802 42150; 51.13086°N, 1.34028°E|
At a distance of 21 miles across the English Channel from France, Dover is Britain’s closest port to continental Europe. Its sheltered location at the mouth of the River Dour has been associated with maritime transport as far back as the Bronze Age, and the Romans built a harbour there — in fact, Dover was the base of the Roman fleet in Britain. The Port of Dover has been owned and operated since 1606 by the Dover Harbour Board, established by Royal Charter by James VI and I. Major improvements, involving the construction of new piers and breakwaters, were started in the 19th century to create a harbour of refuge for the Admiralty’s fleet and to put an end to the centuries-old problems of the harbour silting up with shingle.
The port comprises a square mile of enclosed water. Its Eastern Docks are home to the passenger and freight ferry terminal, while a cruise-liner terminal and marina are located at the Western Docks. At the latter there also used to be a railway station, which closed when the Channel Tunnel opened in 1994, and a hoverport, now demolished but which operated a hovercraft service until 2000 and a catamaran service until 2008. Currently there are plans to redevelop the Western Docks to create an additional ferry terminal.
With a throughput of 11.9 million passengers in 2012, Dover claims to be the world’s busiest passenger port. Four ferry companies run services from Dover to Calais and Dunkirk, and there is on average a departure every 30 minutes.
In 2010, the Dover Harbour Board, a statutory body with no shareholders, sought permission to privatise the port. In response to this, the Dover People’s Port Trust was set up by local campaigners with the aim of purchasing the port and running it as a ‘Big Society’-inspired community trust. Local residents voted decisively in favour of these plans in a non-binding referendum in March 2011. In December 2012, the Government tuned down the Board’s application for privatisation.