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Belfast Harbour

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Overview





Belfast Harbour is located on the northeast coast of Ireland at the head of Belfast Lough and within the banks of the River Lagan. The harbour provides newly opened berthing facilities for leisure craft in the Abercorn Basin within the commercial harbour. This provides pontoon visitor berths just ten minutes’ walk away from the centre of Northern Ireland's capital city.

The basin provides complete protection. Safe access is available night or day, at any stage of the tide in all reasonable conditions.
Please note

Transits to and from Belfast Harbour are controlled and managed. Visiting vessels must make Belfast Harbour Radio aware of their intentions prior to approach and stay in contact throughout the berthing process. Harbour transits must be made under power with sails down and care should be taken not to impede commercial traffic.




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Keyfacts for Belfast Harbour
Facilities
Water available via tapWaste disposal bins availableDiesel fuel available alongsidePetrol available alongsideGas availableMini-supermarket or supermarket availableExtensive shopping available in the areaFuel by arrangement with bulk tanker providerLaundry facilities availableShore power available alongsideShore based toilet facilitiesHot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaCashpoint or bank available in the areaPost Office in the areaInternet café in the areaDoctor or hospital in the areaPharmacy in the areaChandlery available in the areaHaul-out capabilities via arrangementMarine engineering services available in the areaElectronics or electronic repair available in the areaSail making or sail repair servicesScuba diving cylinder refill capabilitiesBus service available in the areaTrain or tram service available in the areaRegional or international airport within 25 kilometresBicycle hire available in the areaCar hire available in the areaTourist Information office availableShore based family recreation in the area


Nature
Marina or pontoon berthing facilitiesNavigation lights to support a night approachUrban nature,  anything from a small town of more 5,000 inhabitants  to a large cityHistoric, geographic or culturally significant location; or in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Note: strong tides or currents in the area that require considerationNote: harbour fees may be charged

Protected sectors

Current wind over the protected quadrants
Minimum depth
4 metres (13.12 feet).

Approaches
5 stars: Safe access; all reasonable conditions.
Shelter
5 stars: Complete protection; all-round shelter in all reasonable conditions.



Last modified
July 18th 2018

Summary

A completely protected location with safe access.

Facilities
Water available via tapWaste disposal bins availableDiesel fuel available alongsidePetrol available alongsideGas availableMini-supermarket or supermarket availableExtensive shopping available in the areaFuel by arrangement with bulk tanker providerLaundry facilities availableShore power available alongsideShore based toilet facilitiesHot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaCashpoint or bank available in the areaPost Office in the areaInternet café in the areaDoctor or hospital in the areaPharmacy in the areaChandlery available in the areaHaul-out capabilities via arrangementMarine engineering services available in the areaElectronics or electronic repair available in the areaSail making or sail repair servicesScuba diving cylinder refill capabilitiesBus service available in the areaTrain or tram service available in the areaRegional or international airport within 25 kilometresBicycle hire available in the areaCar hire available in the areaTourist Information office availableShore based family recreation in the area


Nature
Marina or pontoon berthing facilitiesNavigation lights to support a night approachUrban nature,  anything from a small town of more 5,000 inhabitants  to a large cityHistoric, geographic or culturally significant location; or in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Note: strong tides or currents in the area that require considerationNote: harbour fees may be charged



Position and approaches
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Haven position

54° 36.300' N, 005° 54.860' W

This is position of the Abercorn Basin where the recreational vessel berths are located.


What are the key points of the approach?

Offshore details are available in the northeast Ireland’s Coastal Overview for Malin Head to Strangford Lough Route location.

  • Approaches to the lough can be found in the Bangor Harbour Click to view haven entry.
  • Track into the Fairway Light buoy through Belfast Lough's open navigable area that is free of dangers.

  • Enter the channel and follow it into the Abercorn Basin under power taking care not to impede commercial traffic.


Not what you need?
Click the 'Next' and 'Previous' buttons to progress through neighbouring havens in a coastal 'clockwise' or 'anti-clockwise' sequence. Below are the ten nearest havens to Belfast Harbour for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. Cultra - 2.8 miles NE
  2. Newtownabbey - 2.9 miles NNE
  3. Greenisland - 3.5 miles NNE
  4. Carrickfergus Harbour & Marina - 4.5 miles NNE
  5. Helen’s Bay - 4.7 miles NE
  6. Bangor Harbour & Marina - 5.7 miles ENE
  7. Ballyholme Bay - 6.1 miles ENE
  8. Groomsport - 6.9 miles ENE
  9. Ballydorn and Down Cruising Club - 7.1 miles SE
  10. Whitehead - 7.2 miles NE
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. Cultra - 2.8 miles NE
  2. Newtownabbey - 2.9 miles NNE
  3. Greenisland - 3.5 miles NNE
  4. Carrickfergus Harbour & Marina - 4.5 miles NNE
  5. Helen’s Bay - 4.7 miles NE
  6. Bangor Harbour & Marina - 5.7 miles ENE
  7. Ballyholme Bay - 6.1 miles ENE
  8. Groomsport - 6.9 miles ENE
  9. Ballydorn and Down Cruising Club - 7.1 miles SE
  10. Whitehead - 7.2 miles NE
To find locations with the specific attributes you need try our resources search

Chart
Please use our integrated Navionics chart to appraise the haven and its approaches. Navionics charts feature in premier plotters from B&G, Raymarine, Magellan and are also available on tablets. Open the chart in a larger viewing area by clicking the expand to 'new tab' or the 'full screen' option.

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How to get in?


Belfast Harbour is situated at the head of Belfast Lough at the entrance to the River Lagan. Belfast is the capital, and also the manufacturing and commercial heart of Northern Ireland. The centre of Belfast and the greater part of the modern city is west of the Lagan in Co. Antrim, but part of the city also lies east of the Lagan in Co. Down. It provides berthing facilities within the docks area at the mouth of the River Lagan.

Directions for Bangor Harbour Click to view haven may be used for approaches to the lough. From which a track to the Belfast Fairway Light buoy, L Fl 10s, which is situated in the middle of the lough between Carrickfergus and Grey Point on the opposite shore.

The initial fix sets up an approach to the dredged Victoria Channel via the Fairway Light buoy. This is the preferred route and the one that the harbour authorities encourage visiting vessels to use.

All boat movements are controlled and managed within the Port of Belfast area. This area covers the entire head of the lough within a charted line drawn from Carrickfergus to Grey Point. Boats operating in the Port of Belfast area must do so under power with sails down taking care not to impede commercial traffic.

All vessels are required to report to Belfast Harbour radio, VHF Channel 12 or 16 or by telephone on +44 2890 553504, well in advance of arrival and advise them of their intentions. The following Belfast Harbour radio contacts are prerequisite for all berthing craft:
1. Two hours prior to arrival at the Fairway Buoy or entry point.
2. Fifteen minutes prior to arrival at the Fairway Buoy or entry point.
3. When Passing No. 12 Beacon (one mile out from the river mouth).
4. When arriving at the berth.

Vessels must maintain a listening watch on VHF Channel 12 whilst within the harbour limits. The maximum speed in the harbour area south of Number 12 beacon is 6 knots.


Initial fix location From the initial fix, the position of the Fairway Light buoy, LFl.10s, steer to pass between the No. 1 Green buoy, starboard hand marker, Fl2 G (sync) and the No. 2 Red buoy, port hand marker Fl2 R 2s (sync) 2.5 miles west by southwest. The total length of travel from the Fairway Light buoy to the berth is 7.5 miles.

The No.1 and No.2 mark the entrance to the Belfast Lough Victoria Channel that leads in through the head of the lough and through the harbour’s extensive port walls on both sides. Once within the Victoria Channel, it is simply a matter of following the frequent and closely spaced light beacons all the way into the harbour; green odd numbered beacons mark the northwest side and red even numbered beacons mark the southeast side. Victoria Channel is a ‘narrow channel’ meaning Rule 9 of the Collision Regulations applies, so keep to the right and do not impede large ships under any circumstances. Plenty of water will be found close outside the northeast, or starboard, side of the channel up to the No.13 beacon. Beyond this, it shallows particularly so on the southwest port side, where the Holywood Bank dries almost out to the marks.

The dredged channel is the preferred route and the one that the harbour authorities encourage visiting vessels to use. However, provided advance permission is sought and approved by Belfast Harbour radio, it is possible for yachts to enter the fairway between Piles No. 5 and No. 6 where ample depth will be found up too and beyond these marks. This is not the case inside beacon No. 12. After beacon No. 12 shallow and drying banks on either side of the fairway make it very dangerous to leave the marked channel.

Once inside the River Lagan entrance, Belfast Docks’ extensive port installations will be seen on both sides. Continue down the Victoria Channel until Herdman Channel will be seen, branching off to the north side, and Musgrave Channel, branching off to the south side. Ignore both these side channels and continue down the middle between the heads of West Twin and East Twin Islands, into the Lagan River.

The Abercorn Basin will be found just under 1.5 miles from this branch point. It is situated on the southeast, or port hand side, adjacent to the highly conspicuous very large domed Odyssey Pavilion on Queen's Quay.


Haven location The Abercorn Basin pontoons are located on the southwest side of the basin immediately adjacent to the Odyssey Pavilion. 240 metres of pontoons supporting 40 berths will be found and the Basin is dredged to 4 metres.

Credit/Debit Card payment must be made on arrival at one of the ticket machines situated on the main pontoon at the base of the entrance bridge. Visitors will be asked to input their vessel LOA, berth number(s) and the planned duration of their stay. Retain the provided receipt as it contains the access gates security code information on the back.
Please note

The Abercorn Basin pontoons are a forerunner to a new fully equipped 200 berth marina located right at the heart of Belfast’s Titanic Quarter.



Smaller power craft may find further pontoons at the Lagan Weir beyond the Lagan Bridge. The Lagan Bridge is located 400 metres upstream or southwest of the entrance to the Abercorn Basin and it has an airdraft of less than 8 metres above chart datum or 3.5 metres MHWS. The pontoons are located 150 metres upstream at the Lagan Weir. These pontoons are a Northern Ireland government facility operated by the Dept of Social Development.




The Lagan Weir protects the city from very high tides and retains navigable water in the river at low tide. When the Weir opens low airdraft vessels, drawing less than 1.5 metres, may continue three miles upriver to the Stranmillis Weir; pass through gate 2 to go upriver and return through gate 4.


Why visit here?
Belfast derives its name from the Irish ‘Béal Feirste’ that translates to "mouth of the sandbars". The sandbar referred to was across the mouth of the River Lagan and situated near where the little River Farset joined it. This small river that now flows below High Street to enter the Lagan, was also named from the bank or ford, feirste over time moving to fearsaid to Farset.




Belfast’s human occupation reaches back to the Bronze Age. This is evidenced by the Megalithic ‘Giant's Ring’ henge located near the city that dates back over 5000 years. Later remains of Iron Age hill forts, such as McArt's Fort on top of Cave Hill, may also be seen in the hills surrounding the city.


The original settlement of Belfast is thought to have been little more than a village based around the marshy ford provided by the conjunction of the Rivers Lagan and Farset. The first note of it was made as early as AD 665 when it was described in the account of a battle fought at the site. In 1177 John de Courcy, the leader of the Anglo-Norman conquest of Ulster, built a castle here to protect and dominate the position. It was attacked, recovered, destroyed and rebuilt many times until it was eventually destroyed by fire in 1708. However, during all this time Belfast remained a small settlement of little importance that was continually overshadowed by Carrickfergus to the northeast.


This changed with the 17th century Plantation of Ulster when Belfast became a substantial settlement. No one had effectively wrestled control of this area from the Gaelic Clans until King James granted it to Sir Arthur Chichester. Chichester, a major exponent of the Plantation, rebuilt Belfast Castle in 1611 and took firm control of the area. This transformed the region and soon a small town grew around the castle hosting a population of about 1,000. The planters were industrious trading in wool, hides, grain, butter and salted meat that were exported from Belfast to England, Scotland and France. Wine and fruit were imported from France and Spain. At the latter end of the 17th-century Belfast traded with the North American colonies and tobacco and sugar were imported from the West Indies and refined in Belfast. Other associated industries grew around this trade including brewing, rope making and sail making. By then the population had about doubled to around 2,000 and it was then swelled by French Protestants. Fleeing religious persecution in their own country they introduced linen weaving to Belfast.


By the early 18th century the town had replaced Carrickfergus as the most important port in Ulster and additional accommodation was necessary for its very busy harbour. A number of privately owned wharves were subsequently constructed on reclaimed land. Throughout the century trade continued to expand as Belfast assumed a greater role in the trading activities of the country as a whole. The rope making industry thrived during the 19th century but it was linen that steadily grew to become Belfast’s dominant industry. The linen was first woven in people's homes in the surrounding countryside and was not industrialised until the middle of the 19th century. Cotton spinning was introduced into Belfast in 1777 but never had the same importance as linen of which Belfast had become a centre of excellence.




By the 19th century Belfast had become Ireland's pre-eminent industrial city with linen, heavy engineering, tobacco and shipbuilding dominating the economy. In the middle of the 19th century there were several iron foundries in Belfast, and in the late 19th century a large engineering industry grew up. It was this, combined with the ideal estuarial location, that made it the location for the shipbuilding industry, and Belfast became home to one of the largest shipbuilders in the world, Harland and Wolff. At its peak Harland and Wolff, employing up to 35,000 workers, was considered the greatest and most productive shipbuilding company globally. Migrants came to Belfast from across Ireland, Scotland and England, but particularly from rural Ulster to work in the yard and the surrounding industrial powerhouse that the city had become. For a short time it overtook Dublin as the largest city in Ireland. But with this infusion came the first sectarian tensions marked by riots, which have become synonymous with the city.


It was during the industrial peak that the world leading Harland and Wolff shipyard created a ship that would capture the imagination of the world and propel Belfast onto the global stage. This was the ill-fated RMS Titanic; the most famous sailing vessel in maritime history. The RMS Titanic was the largest passenger steamship ever built. Launched in 1911 she set off on her maiden voyage in 1912. Four days into the crossing, from Southampton to New York City, it struck an iceberg and sank in less than three hours. It took 1,517 people with her of which many were from the elite or leading figures of the time. It remains to this day one of the deadliest peacetime maritime disasters in history.


Today, the story of this vessel is remembered in the ‘Titanic Quarter’ directly adjacent to the berthing area in the Abercorn Basin and opened 100 years after the Titanic set sail. The world's largest Titanic-themed visitor attraction is part of a large-scale waterfront regeneration project on 185-acres (75 ha) of the once Harland and Wolff shipyard. Comprising historic maritime landmarks, film studios, education facilities, apartments, and a riverside entertainment district it pays tribute to Belfast Harbour, the city and the technical talent that made the Titanic engineering world-beating. Over 700,000 people visited Titanic Belfast in its first 12 months of opening; exceeding all forecasts.


Belfast is the second largest city in all of Ireland and is Northern Ireland’s capital. It remains a centre for business and industry, featuring aircraft production, brewing, flour milling, pharmaceuticals and other light industries. It is also a centre for the arts, higher education, law, culture and is the engine of Northern Ireland. The harbour itself remains equally significant. Today it still handles over 60% of Northern Ireland’s sea-borne trade and 20% of Ireland's as a whole.


From a boating perspective, the Abercorn Basin provides excellent shelter from all winds and safe easy access. But it also places a boatman in the heart of this historic city with its extensive facilities within 10 minutes’ walk. It also offers a rare and uniquely historic connection, a berth in the Harland and Wolff's cradle of the 'Titanic Port'.


What facilities are available?
Drinking water and electricity are provided to all berths 24hrs daily. Waste and recycling facilities are available at the base of the bridge, and public toilets are available in the Odyssey complex during opening hours together with public payphones and paid car parking.

The pontoon is a ten minute walk from the city centre which has all the facilities to service an urban population of more than a quarter of a million. Thus it has to offer a wide variety of excellent restaurants, bars, shopping, museums, galleries and all other facilities, including a sailmaker.

Belfast has excellent transport connections via trains and bus services to any location in Ireland. Flights to domestic and international destinations operate from Belfast International Airport, the main regional airport, and George Best Belfast City Airport. There are more than 80 weekly ferry sailings from Belfast to UK ports.


Any security concerns?
The facility is monitored by CCTV security cameras. Secure access is gained by a gate code which can be found on the reverse of the receipt provided by the fee payment ticket machine.


With thanks to:
Michael Evans, Deputy Harbour Master, Belfast Harbour. Photography with thanks to RobertPaulYoung, Albert Bridge, Michael Parry, Rossographer, Ardfern, Eric Jones, Prioryman and Dean Molyneaux.


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Aerial overview of the Belfast harbour area




The new harbour development and the Titanic visitor centre



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