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Shipping Canal: Manchester Ship Canal

Posted in Shipping Canal - 7 Jun 2021, 3:35 PM

When opened in 1894, Manchester Ship Canal was the largest river canal in the world. The inland position of Manchester did not stop it from being the busiest port, handling around 1,358,875 tonnages of cargo in its first year.

History of Port Manchester

Late in the 18th century, Manchester established itself as a leading industry region. This means, exporting goods need to be done through Liverpool by land before it can get on to the cargo ships. Cost efficiency is one of the underlying reasons for Manchester’s need for the canal.

So, through several plans and bills, it was finalized in the Manchester Ship Canal Act 1885. The canal set out to be an inland waterway that started in the Eastham Locks and ended in the Salford Quays.

However, the River Mersey and Irwell were already navigable at that time, with no direct access to the sea. The canal construction did not only give a direct waterway from Port of Manchester to the sea but also connected nearby waterways such as Mersey, Irwell, Glaze Brook, Bollin, and other waterway systems such as Bridgewater Canal, Weaver Navigation, and Shropshire Union Canal.

It was built 36 miles in length and 28 feet in depth. It was designed with locks to set the elevation for ships and sluices to adjust the canal’s depth with the passing ship’s needs. Up until the 1980s, the Manchester Ship Canal was still one of the busiest waterways and ports in the world.

Manchester Ship Canal Right Now

However, the size of cargo ships was ever-larger. Ship designs and dimensions were gradually larger than ever. This created difficulty in the canal as most of the modern ships at the time did not fit into the canal. What had been considered large cargo vessels in the canal then seemed small when compared to the newest technology at the time.

This had dropped the traffic in the canal, down to 9,767,380 tonnages in 1985. It was around half of the tonnage it handled in the 1950s that reached up to 18 million tons annually.

Currently, the Port of Manchester is managed by Peel Ports. While not being as busy as it was, it still offers a solution for the transport of goods for the UK with a diverse range of commodities such as forest products, dry & liquid bulks, metals, and agricultural bulks.

Pleasure Cruise down the Canal, a Way to Preserve Legacy

Besides being a canal for the industry, the Manchester Ship Canal is now available for a sight-seeing cruise down the River Mersey. With a small cruise ship, passengers will be taken from Liverpool and Wirral and go down the canal, seeing the Latchford locks and see how the locks work.

Along the cruise, passengers can see the Victorian legacy of the Latchford High Bridge and Liverpool Waterfront and its panoramic skyline. This cruise is a reasonable use of the canal, although the schedule might need to adjust with the canal’s commercial activity.

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