History of the port
Development and growth from day one
The port of Hirtshals is the result of impressive engineering, and more than 100 years have gone by since the first ideas of a port was aired. Since then the port has been established and continuously expanded. The history of the port has a close connection to the history of the town. Today, the port is a modern and dynamic business focused on development and growth, and importance of the port goes beyond Hirtshals and Northern Jutland.
The establishment of the port did not seem as a good idea, because of the nature of the coastline and the location at the outermost corner of Denmark - the shoulder of Jutland. Hirtshals was mentioned in official documents for the first time in 1532. However, back then it was under the name Harthals, supposedly of Dutch origin, meaning deer neck after the shape of the coastline.
In 1804, the idea of a port near the small poor community of Hirtshals emerged. The newspaper Jyske Efterretninger emphasised the need for a port exactly at this location in order to facilitate cargo transportation between Norway and the rest of Europe. Back then, cargo transport went over the more complicated routes through Sweden. A port in Hirtshals could obviously also clear the way for an important fishery in Skagerrak and the North Sea.
However, the time was not right and the Danish state did not dare to take on an engineering project of this size.
At the end of the 19th century, the first breakwaters were made to protect the fishing boats. With their small boats, the fishermen would catch especially herring and mackerel close to the coast.
In 1917, The Ministry of Public Work was authorized to begin the construction of a port in Hirtshals.
The old breakwater
The Port of Hirtshals was planned, projected and built by civil engineer Jørgen Fibiger (1867-1936), who also decided on the location of the port. The port was built at a point, because it was believed that it would cause less sand up. Simultaneously, the coast is strong at a point, which meant that the coast around the port would not erode. During the construction of the port, engineer Jørgen Fibiger lived in the building, which is used as headquarters for Skagerak Group today - earlier it was used as a train station.
From the beginning, a third of the fish landed at the Port of Hirtshals came from foreign fishing boats, and this just substantiated the need for a port in Hirtshals.
In the following decades, the port was expanded with new breakwaters, basins and quays. The port and the companies established here developed together with growth as the common goal, and likewise the town grew concurrently with the port.
Concurrent growth of the community and the port in the 1930s
After the construction of the Port of Hirtshals in the 1920s, the community in Hirtshals started growing and adapting to the new opportunities. New companies were established at the port and of course a fish auction. The first fish auction took place on 2 January 1930 in the newly built fish warehouses at the auction quay.
Navigation of the port was difficult, because of wave and current conditions by the coast and in 1935, a new breakwater was built to make entry to the port safer.
In 1937, the first ferry service between Hirtshals and Norway was opened. The service went to Arendal, but later moved to Kristiansand and is still in service today.
Through the 1930s, the fishery in Hirtshals grew, and the port proved its justification as transport a centre for cargo to Norway.
The standstill of the 1940s
In the 1940s, the development of the Port of Hirtshals came to a standstill like the rest of Europe.
The fishery was also limited during the wartime as it involved extraordinary danger to be at sea.
Increased activity level and a ferry service in the 1950s
At the end of the 1940s and the beginning of the 1950s, the activities returned and especially Hirtshals was positive influenced by this. After a slow development in the 1940s, a wave of development and construction work began, and continued through the 1950s and the following four decades.
The fishing fleet grew and the activity level at the port increased continuously. Towards the end of the decade, the fishery activities were at a level, which almost overwhelmed the conditions of the 20-year old port.
In November 1955, the minister of traffic Lindberg visited Hirtshals and met the ferry committee, which had taken the initiative to establish a ferry service between Norway and Hirtshals. The visit and the initiatives among other things contributed to the signing of an agreement between Norway and Denmark in 1958 regarding the establishment of a railway ferry service between Hirtshals and Norway (Kristiansand).
In 1957-58, the first ferry berth was built in Hirtshals and the ferry service to Kristiansand was opened.
The auction hall in 1956
Travlhed på fiskeauktionen 1967
Expansion with two port basins in the 1960s
The 1960 are started with construction work. The development of the western port basin was started in 1958 and in September 1961 it was possible to let in water to the basin, which has been built dry. The clay, which has been dug up from the new port basin, was transported to the ravine below the lighthouse, and the area is today known as "Leret" (the clay).
At the western port, slipways and shipyards were built, which helped to support the ongoing development in the fishery. The fishing industry and fishing fleet were continuously growing and in 1963, it was possible to cross the new port basin by walking on the decks of the fishing vessel.
In the mid-1960s, the development in the fishery happened so rapidly that it became necessary to start construction of a new port basin. The eastern port basin (today called East Basin 1) was put into use in 1967.
The high level of activity and the increasing amounts of fish also called for better auction condition and in 1968, a new fish auction was put into use.
Intensified development in the 1970s
In the 1970s, the development of the fishery was intensified, and at the same time the development of the transport sector was increased.
The fishing industry and the cargo transport to Norway caused a need for better infrastructure on land. As for the railroad, new rail areas were put into use in 1971.
Improved railway conditions lead to the start of railway container traffic for the ferries.
In order to keep up with the development of the fishery, four companies at the port (e.g. Skagerak Fiskeeksport and the Claus Sørensen Group) started the construction of an ice work at Frysehuskajen in 1972. The production capacity of the ice work was 300 tons a day, and it was completed in 1974.
In 1973, VandBygningsVæsnet in Copenhagen closed down and the state port administration in Frederikshavn took over administration of the Port of Hirtshals.
The size of the vessels in the fishery and transport sector were still increasing, which caused a need for improved navigation conditions - there was a need for calmer water at the port entry. This was done by a 160-meter extension of the breakwaters, which was made of dolos blocks. The extension of the breakwaters was finished in 1973.
In the 1970s, construction activities at the port were wide scaled. The port was extended to the east with the move of the eastern breakwater in 1973-1974 and the construction of East Basin 2 in 1974-75.
In 1973, Hirtshals Fishermen's Association established its own box wash at the eastern part of the port - the growing fishing industry and shift to plastic boxes created a need for a new box wash.
In addition to the growth in the fishery and the establishment of new port basins, the transport sector was growing too, and in the beginning of the 1970s, the ferry traffic to Norway increased and created a need for increased capacity at the port.
New ferries required better conditions. In 1974, the ferry berth was rebuilt and already in 1975, a new ferry with more capacity was put into service. New ferries also caused a need for improved facilities and in 1974, the ferry berth was rebuilt. In 1975, a new ferry with more capacity was put into service.
Expansion of the breakwater in 1971-73
In 1974, a 1.200 m² cold store - Nyfrost - was built at the eastern part of the port.
Through the 1970s, the fishery grew and time after time new records were set in auction revenue and in volume of fish landed in Hirtshals. Especially pelagic landings such as herring and mackerel were considerable, and in 1976 auction hall 3 - Sildehallen - at Sildekajen by East Basin 2 was opened.
The technological development, which meant that pelagic fish could be pumped ashore in iced seawater, limited the use of auction hall 3, and during the 1990s, the hall was rented out as cold store instead.
The size of the fishing fleet and the increasing size of the fishing vessels created a need for larger service facilities at the port. Therefore, the first floating dock arrived at the port in 1976.
The geographical location of the Port of Hirtshals and the short distance to the North Atlantic led to the establishment of a cargo service with side port vessels to the Faroe Islands.
Peak of the fishery and the economic crisis of the state in the 1980s
In the 1980s, the significant growth and the construction activities of the 1970s continued. Despite the limited economic latitude of state funds, means were nevertheless allocated for the continuing development of the Port of Hirtshals.
Despite continuous expansions of the port during the last 50 years, navigation became difficult due to an increasing number of larger vessels and the increasing traffic. In 1981-1982, the northern and eastern breakwaters were moved and a larger outer port basin was created.
The large production of the five fishmeal factories at the port required more space for landing of industrial fish, and in 1985-1986 Industrikajen was expanded by 40 meters.
To further improve navigation and as part of renovation of old constructions, Tværmolen (one of the inner quays) was changed and the outside of it made as a breakwater to reduce rough sea at the port entry.
Because of the increase in vessel size and draught, the outer port basin was deepened to a depth of 7-7.5 meters in the 1980s.
Around the 1980, the overall fish landings peaked at 300.000 tons of industrial fish. Since then, general regulations of the European fishery resulted in a decrease of the supply of industrial fish and edible fish to the Port of Hirtshals.
At the end of the 1980s, higher environmental requirements influenced maintenance of ships. At the request of the Department of the Environment, the Danish Parliament decided that sand blasting and painting of ships were no longer allowed outside. In 1989, Denmark's first covered floating was therefore built in Hirtshals.
The 1990s, in waiting position and a new northern breakwater
In the 1990s, new perspectives for the stated-owned ports appeared. A more general opinion that the state should not manage ports, but instead handover the ownership of the 12 state ports to the local communities, occurred in the Danish Parliament.
In the beginning of the 1990s, the industrial fishery peaked and this was the end of the fishmeal factories in Hirtshals. The fishmeal factories were demolished or rebuilt to makes space for the continuing growth of the ferry traffic.
In 1990, a new 1.000 m² auction hall was put into use. The hall fulfilled the need for keeping the fish cold during the auction. At the beginning of the new millennium, the requirements for the auctions of edible fish increased, and the auction hall was no longer up to date. In 2004, the auction hall was taken down again, and rebuilt at Notkajen as auction hall for soused herring.
In 1993, the ferry activities were rooted in Hirtshals, as a second ferry berth was built. In 1994, Color Line built a new terminal building and a roofed walkway for passengers from the ferry terminal to the railway station and town.
The 1990s became a decade of waiting due to of the thoughts of selling the state ports and a tight state economy policy, which lasted until 1993. Only the most necessary maintenance work was made at the Port of Hirtshals, and construction funds were only given to a few larger construction projects.
After the change of government in 1994, the Danish economy was revived and as one of the few port projects, the Port of Hirtshals had a plan ready for an expansion of the northern breakwater. The northern breakwater had a length of 500 meter and in 1994-95, it was moved 200 meter out into the sea to improve navigation conditions in the outer port basin for the increasingly larger ferries navigating the port.
Already in 1997, the increasing cargo traffic created a need for a new quay area with a ro/ro ramp. The quay - which is today called Trailerkajen - had a length of 110 meter, and a water depth of 8.5 meters. Trailerkajen was the first part of the area today known as NordsøTerminalen.
1 January 2001, the port changes its status
1 January 2001 was a landmark for the Port of Hirtshals. On this day, Hirtshals Municipality took over the ownership of the port from the Danish state for a price of DKR 115 million (app. ?15.4).
The support of the local community, the designation of a resourceful board of directors and finally the economic conditions gave the port new opportunities to look forward and launch new strategic initiatives. From 1 January 2001, the Port of Hirtshals started to focus on developing the activities at the port areas.
In connection with the transfer of ownership, the eastern pier was moved to make more space for the establishment of a sediment depot for disposal of port sediment. The sediment depot covered an area of 55.000 m², and as it was filled with sediment from the port basins and covered with sand, a new area was created used for waiting areas for the ferry traffic and other business purposes. The development of the industrial areas and the growth in the cargo transport at NordsøTerminalen happened continually, as the pressure from the users was counterbalanced by the completion of investments.
In the transaction of the port, it was agreed to improve safety of navigation. Therefore, a study of navigation safety was made. The result of the study showed that the breakwater should be moved 70 meters to the west to secure the necessary safety. The relocation of the breakwater was started in 2002 and finished at the beginning of 2004. The improved safety has afterwards proved its justification.
The container quay
New strategic investments in the 2000s
The changed status of the port was used to focus on development opportunities of the port, and to make new strategic investments. As part of the strategic focus on container traffic, the port bought a mobile crane with a lifting capacity of 100 ton. On 31 December 2001, the crane was delivered and at the same time, it was decided to build a new 300-meter quay section with a water depth of 9.5 meters. The construction of Containerkajen - as the new quay was called - was finished in the first part of 2001, and was immediately taken into use for container and ro/ro traffic.
In 2003 and 2004, the investments of the port were centred on the fishery. In 2003, the port entry and the outer port basin were deepened by 2 meters, which provided a greater water depth at Notkajen, which was rebuilt at the same time. The deepening and reconstruction of Notkajen allowed larger trawlers to enter the port, and thereby provided the right settings for maintaining the pelagic fishery.
In 2004 and 2005, the focus on high quality demersal fish landed and sold at the auction in Hirtshals led to the construction of a new auction hall. Fish Terminal Hirtshals was a total concept that fulfilled all the requirements for optimal and documentable handling of fish - from landing all the way through to the processing of the fish. Fish Terminal Hirtshals contained all the activities connected to landing, sorting, fish auction and transport of fresh fish.
In 2007, the structural reform created Hjørring Municipality, which consisted of the former municipalities of Hirtshals, Hjørring, Sindal and Løkken-Vrå, leaving the Port of Hirtshals with an even stronger anchoring in the region. This provided the Port of Hirtshals with new challenges as a regional business centre, which was to take part in creating the right frame set for development of the business community in the region.
A change of perspective from port services to commercial Development
From the mid-2000s to the beginning of the 2010s, the perspective of the port was changed as a part of a strategic process and new visions moved the port from port service to commercial development. Additionally, the port strengthened its European focus in order to create more local activities with an extroverted perspective.
During the period from 2006 to 2008, the position of the port as a ferry port was further strengthened as Color Line consolidated all its Danish activities in Hirtshals and put two new SuperSpeed ferries into service.
In 2008 and 2010, Fjord Line and Smyril Line sat up at the Port of Hirtshals with services to western and southern part of Norway and to the Faroe Islands and Iceland. Thereby, Hirtshals had five services with destinations in Norway and two services with destination in the North Atlantic Ocean.
In 2009, East Basin 1 was deepened to a depth of 9.1 meter in order to strengthen the herring industry. Another deepening of the outer port basin and East Basin 2 to 10.5 meter in 2009 followed this. With the largest water depth in Northern Jutland, this helped Hirtshals strengthened its position regarding landings from factory trawlers.
In 2009, the Port of Hirtshals expanded its activities by taking part in the establishment of Hirtshals Transport Centre together with private investors. Hirtshals Transport Centre was located between the port and motorway E39. Already in 2012, Hirtshals Transport Centre exhibited a growth high enough for the port to withdraw from the centre and return its focus to the development of port activities.
In 2011, the port along with several other companies at the port enter the offshore market. Maersk Drilling's oil rig "Maersk Guardian" was at the port for a 94 days life extension and renovation project, which was so satisfactory that the sister rig "Maersk Giant" arrived at the port for a similar renovation and life extension in 2012.
Again in 2015 and 2016 two jack up accommodation rigs arrived in Hirtshals.
Maersk Guardian 2011
Four ferries at the port in 2010
The 2010's form new perspectives and the role of the port is developed
In the 2000's, the Port of Hirtshals constantly developed the organisation to match the demands and future perspectives which had been put down.
In 2012, the port strengthened its day to day management by establishing the board of managers with the aim to strengthen the innovation and business development at the port. In order to make the port administration run as dynamic and efficient as possible, the function of middle managers was phrased out and the responsibility to a great extent was delegated to autonomous groups.
Besides constantly developing the organisational structure, the Port of Hirtshals furthermore developed its role and position, and from the middle of the 2010's, the port began to redefine its position from being a traditional port to an intermodal logistics centre.
Because of a continuous focus on the port's social role as an institution generating growth in the local community, the port had an increasing focus on innovation and communication. Therefore, communication and innovation employees were employed to contribute to the development of the port's online interaction, which furthermore would contribute to the position as an intermodal logistic centre in Scandinavia - both in relation to transportation of cargo and fish.
On 25 June 2015, the port took a crucial step in order to become an intermodal logistic centre as the combi terminal at the port was completed. From that day on, the infrastructure at the port could manage both sea carriage as well as transportation by road and by railway. Even though the port now had a terminal to handle rail freight, the work on establishing fixed traffic at the terminal is still in progress.
In the middle of the 2010's, the Port of Hirtshals had more than 60 ferry calls each week and on 16 February 2016 the port took a significant step into a new league as the Luxembourg based shipping company CLdN set-up a ro/ro service between Zeebrugge, Gothenburg, and Hirtshals.
In 2015 - 2018, a land expansion of 250,000 m² east of the existing port area was established which so far was the largest separate investment in the port's history. The extension allows an establishment of continuously developing business activity as well as it improves and contributes to a more efficient infrastructure to the NordsøTerminal.
In 2015, another main road to the port was built in relation to the land expansion. The new main road, which purpose is to relieve the traffic at the port area, connects the eastern part of the port and E39 with Hirtshals transportation centre.
Initiatives concerning collaboration within the fishery industry have furthermore been established as the network "Nordfisk" was established in autumn 2016. The network is a collaboration between the fishing clusters in Strandby, Skagen, and Hirtshals who aim to position Vendsyssel as a significant player in Europe.