Granton Harbour handbook

Text version

(This version does not include photographs, advertisements or the schedule of rates. Publication date was 1955.)


A Brief History of Granton Harbour, Edinburgh, with Notes on its Trade Facilities and Schedules of Rates, etc. Compiled and arranged under the authority of the Chairman and Directors of Granton Harbour Ltd.

Ed. J. Burrow & Co. Ltd., Publishers

Foreword by His Grace the Duke of Buccleuch, K.T., P.C., G.C.V.O., Chairman, Granton Harbour Ltd.

Twenty eventful years have elapsed since the last official Handbook was published by the Port of Granton. During that time there have been many improvements at the Port, among which are the installation of a modern coal conveyor, improved quay and warehousing accommodation at the Middle Pier, and the provision of modern electric quay and mobile cranes at both the Middle Pier and the West Pier. It is intended that the Port facilities shall continue to be developed in accordance with requirements as they arise. The Directors take this opportunity of expressing their thanks and appreciation to the ship-owners, merchants and others who have utilised the facilities provided by the Port, and trust that this Handbook will prove to be a ready book of reference for all who may be associated with or interested in Granton Harbour.

Chairman, Granton Harbour Ltd., Harbour Office, 4 Granton Square, Edinburgh, 5.

Proprietors : Granton Harbour Limited

Registered Office : 4 Granton Square, Edinburgh, 5

Chairman : His Grace the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry, K.T., P.C., G.C.V.O.

Directors : The Earl of Dalkeith, Lord William Walter Montagu-Scott, M.C., Sir John Hepburn Milne Home, D.L., J.P.

General Manager : Edgar W. Pringle

Secretary : Alexanmder Martin, M.B.E., C.A.

History and development

In the year 1636 the lands and barony of Western Granton were granted and disponed by Charles I to Sir Thomas Hope of Craighall with "right and privilege of a free port or harbour and of founding and building a harbour thereon". These lands, along with those of Eastern Granton, subsequently came into possession of John, Duke of Argyll and Greenwich, and were inherited by his eldest daughter, Lady Caroline Campbell, Countess of Dalkeith, thereby being added to the lands of the House of Buccleuch.

It was not, however, until nearly two centuries later that the project of constructing a harbour at Granton first came to be considered. During the years prior to and immediately following the suspension of payments by the City of Edinburgh in the year 1833, there had been increasing dissatisfaction with the City’s inadequate maritime connections and facilities. The change from sail to steam had resulted in a greatly increased number of vessels plying to the Forth, most of which, in addition to having a greater cargo capacity, carried a considerable number of passengers. As the direct landing of passengers could only be carried out at favourable states of the tide, landing by small boats had largely to be resorted to, and this not only caused considerable delay and annoyance but, in inclement weather, much discomfort and even risk.

The insistent demand that immediate attention be given to the question of improved facilities, both as regards goods and passengers, finally resulted in a number of schemes being formulated and put forward. These included (1) a new entrance to the docks at Leith from the west, (2) the construction of an entirely new harbour at Trinity, and (3) the construction of an entirely new harbour at the deep water at Granton, as proposed by Mr. R. W. Hamilton, Manager of the General Steam Navigation Company. Mr. Hamilton’s proposal was communicated to the Duke of Buccleuch who, along with the lands at Granton, held the inherited rights of foreshore and harbour. His Grace immediately evinced great interest in the proposal and gave instructions for reports and estimates to be prepared. Opposition between the parties favouring the various schemes became very strong, and His Grace "having no intention of undertaking a measure unless it could be shewn to be consistent with the general interests of the district", called upon Mr. James Walker, F.R.S., President of the Institution of Civil Engineers, to report fully upon the various schemes of harbour improvement which had been proposed by the many persons interested. Mr. Walker decided that after a consideration as full and impartial as he had been able to give the subject, he could see no way in which a remedy to the present difficulties could be applied so economically, so expeditiously, and with so little interference with existing interests and rights as the construction of a harbour at Granton.

The reports and estimates were submitted to and approved by a meeting of "Mercantile and Nautical Gentlemen", held in Edinburgh under the presidency of Admiral Sir David Milne. His Grace intimated that, being convinced of both the practicability and necessity of the proposed undertaking, he himself would bear the entire expense of the works.

A Bill which had been brought before Parliament in 1835 by the promoters of the Trinity scheme was rejected by the House of Commons.

The Granton Bill was introduced in 1836 and on the 21st day of April, 1837, William IV gave his Royal Assent to "an Act to enable the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry to make and maintain a pier at Granton, in the Parish of Cramond".

Construction of the Middle Pier

The design and supervision of the structure which is now known as the Middle Pier were entrusted to Messrs. Walker & Burgess of London, and the contract for the construction of the Pier was placed in the hands of Messrs. John Orrell & Company of Liverpool. The Pier was constructed in sections, the first of which was completed and formally opened on 28th June, 1838, the date of Queen Victoria’s coronation, and named the Victoria Jetty in her honour. The ceremony was performed by His Grace’s brother, Lord John Scott, the occasion "being one of great festivities". On 1st September, 1842, Her Majesty and Prince Albert landed at Granton Pier from the Royal Yacht, Royal George, Her Majesty being received by the Duke of Buccleuch. The Queen’s carriage, it is stated, drove off from the Pier "amid the shouts of the people and the thunder of cannon". On completion of the Royal Progress throughout Scotland, the Royal party sailed again from Granton on 15th September.

The foundations and under-water work of the structure were all carried out by means of a diving bell, and as the work proceeded seawards, delays owing to adverse weather and working conditions were more frequent. it was not until October, 1844, that the last remaining section of the Pier, which was 1,700 feet in length overall, was completed.

The Pier, it is recorded, provided "no fewer than ten berths for large steamers, some of the vessels being of 1,000 tons".

The Pier and both the Breakwaters which were subsequently built were almost entirely constructed from sandstone from His Grace’s quarries upon the Granton Estate. although some of the larger facing blocks were quarried in Fife.

The breakwaters

Although admirably suited for berthing the vessels of that period at all states of the tide, it became apparent that the Middle Pier would require some measure of protection, both from the easterly and the prevailing westerly winds. The construction of two breakwaters was therefore decided upon, and thus a much more ambitious scheme than that originally intended was embarked upon. The breakwaters, when constructed, would provide in addition to a safe landing pier, a safe harbour as well. An Act which included powers to carry out this work was granted Royal Assent in 1842, and the work was put in hand immediately.

The Western Breakwater, undertaken in two contracts, was the first to he formed. The first section – about 1,500 feet in length – was completed in 1849, and work on the second and larger section, forming a slightly obtuse angle with the first, was commenced. The total length of this Breakwater is about 3,100 feet, or nearly three-fifths of a mile.

The construction of the Eastern Breakwater was commenced in 1853, and, in order to complete the protection of the Western Harbour, the outer portion – about 1,000 feet in length – was taken first. The stone from the quarries on the Granton Estate was conveyed to the works by a temporary wooden bridge, carried from the seaward extremity of the West Breakwater. The remaining and longer portion of the Breakwater – about 2,170 feet in length – was carried out from the shore and completed in 1863. The Eastern Breakwater is slightly larger in cross section than its Western neighbour, being 25 feet wide at the top and 150 feet wide at the base at the deepest part, where the height of the structure is 33 feet.

It is interesting to note that the construction of both Breakwaters was so efficiently carried out that they have never required any subsequent maintenance or repairs. The completion of the two Breakwaters, along with the Middle Pier, thus formed two Harbours, the West Harbour containing 69 acres and the East Harbour 52 acres of water at High Water of Spring Tides.

Although by this time steamships were becoming much more numerous, there were still a great many sailing vessels trading to this country from European ports, and Granton Harbour soon came to be known as a safe refuge in time of storm. Ample mooring buoys were laid down in the West Harbour, and in severe weather conditions the mooring facilities were frequently utilised to capacity by windbound craft of many nationalities.

The West Pier

For some time the rapidly expanding trade at Granton had made the provision of additional berthage accommodation an increasingly urgent necessity. In addition, the development of the Lothian Coalfields had resulted in a considerable and growing quantity of coal becoming available for export, and if Granton was to participate in this new trade, facilities would require to be provided. It was therefore decided by His Grace that the outer portion of the Western Breakwater be converted into commercial quayage. This work, which would involve a further great outlay in capital expenditure, was accordingly put in hand. A protection wall (later replaced by the existing concrete wall) was erected on the seaward side of the Breakwater, anti a substantial roadway constructed along with two lines of rails. The lining of the Breakwater with timber wharves was also commenced, and dredging operations carried out to provide suitable berthage.

The first timber wharf, 800 feet in length, in the angle of the Breakwater, was duly completed, and in 1860 two steam coaling cranes, each capable of moving a load of 20 tons, were erected on masonry foundations alongside the new berth. With one of these cranes, the most up-to-date appliance for the shipping of coal then known and the first of its kind in Scotland, about 700 tons of coal could be shipped in a day of ten working hours. This crane was actually in use at Granton, with a slightly reduced load, for the loading of coasters and the bunkering of trawlers, as late as 1927, a striking tribute to the excellence of its workmanship. The work of lining the Breakwater with timber wharves was continued, until finally a total length of over 2,000 feet of deep water quayage was constructed and equipped with the newest type of steam discharging cranes.

The new berthage was fully taken advantage of, and throughout the years both the import and export of varying cargoes has continued to be expeditiously carried out at the Western Wharves.

The name Western Wharves however, has now passed into desuetude, and in more recent years the entire structure has been generally known as the West Pier.


The construction of a Pier at Granton immediately aroused the interest of the Edinburgh, Leith and Newhaven Railway Company (later merged in the North British Railway Company). In 1844 they introduced a Bill to Parliament to enable them to construct a branch railway to Granton, diverging from their main line near Trinity and terminating at Granton Pier. The Bill was successfully passed in that same year and the railway line was duly completed about two years afterwards.

Thirteen years later, in 1857, the Caledonian Railway Company promoted a Bill seeking permission to make a connection with Granton Harbour, and by 1863 a branch had been brought to the head of the Middle Pier. Later this Company laid a connection from their branch line direct to the head of the West Pier. Thus both Railway Companies had access to the lines laid down by His Grace on the Middle Pier and West Pier, and also alongside the shore road connecting the two Piers, forming a complete connection with all the berths in the Harbour.

In addition to the coal available for shipment from the Lothians, which was carried exclusively by the North British Company, a considerable quantity of coal from the Lanarkshire pits was shipped at Granton, the major portion of which was conveyed over the lines operated by the Caledonian Company.

Development during the present century

(This means the twentieth century...)

Up to the beginning of the present century the lands of Granton were without the boundaries of the City of Edinburgh. On 30th July, 1900, an Act to extend the City boundaries received the Royal Assent, and Granton, including the Harbour, became part of the City and Royal Burgh of Edinburgh.

Two years previously the City had acquired an area of ground extending to over 110 acres, situated about half a mile to the West of the Harbour, as a site for the installation of a new Gasworks, from which the whole of the City would receive its supplies. The ultimate choice of Granton as the most favourable site for this great undertaking was largely decided upon because of the close proximity of the Harbour, from which the export of gas coke, and, if the occasion or emergency ever arose, the import of coal, could be most conveniently and economically carried out. Production at the new Gasworks started in 1902 and the export of gas coke from the Harbour commenced early in the following year.

Towards the end of the last century the ever-increasing tonnage and draught of steamers utilising the Port had necessitated the carrying out of extensive dredging and deepening operations, particularly at the West Pier berths. This work was continued throughout the earlier years of the present century, both at the West Pier and at the Middle Pier.

In 1909 the Anglo-Saxon Petroleum Company, after viewing several other prospective sites, decided that the facilities at Granton were best suited for their projected installation in Scotland. An area of ground adjacent to the shoreward end of the West Pier was leased and storage tanks erected. Thus a new trade came to Granton and imports of the various commodities dealt with at the installation have continued right up to the present day.

The increasing coal shipments at Granton, augmented by the export to Scandinavian countries of the considerable quantity of coke now available at Granton Gasworks were taxing the existing coaling facilities to the utmost limit. In addition the Granton trawling fleet had expanded in recent years and now consisted of over 80 vessels, the bunkering of which had at the same time to be carried out. The provision of two modern 25 ton steam coaling cranes was therefore decided upon, one to be erected at the deep water berth at the seaward end of the West Pier, and the other on the foundations of one of the two old coal cranes situated in the angle of the West Pier. The work of strengthening the jetty at the deep water berth to carry the weight of the new crane was accordingly put in hand, additional rails and wagon standage accommodation laid down, and the new crane installed in 1912. Early in 1914 the erection of the second crane was completed, and both cranes were kept working to their fullest capacity.

It had been for some time apparent that additional standage for coal wagons would be necessary and a reclamation scheme to provide ground at the West Harbour for this purpose was decided upon. The building of a retaining bulwark, which would extend from the shore end of the Middle Pier to the shore end of the West Pier was commenced. As each section was completed, filling-in followed immediately and railway lines were laid down. The outbreak of the Great War brought the reclamation work temporarily to a standstill, but later it was resumed and was completed in 1917.

The eventful year 1914 brought to an end a period of great prosperity at Granton. For some considerable time imports had been maintained at a high level, and coal and coke exports had more than doubled during the last decade. The many advantages of a Harbour which vessels could enter and leave at practically any state of the tide resulted, immediately on the outbreak of the war, in the requisitioning by the Admiralty of the greater part of the Middle Pier. Both local trawlers and those from other fishing ports were accommodated at the Pier berths, stripped of their gear and converted into minesweepers. For a short time general trade continued to be carried on at the West Pier, but more and more quayage became requisitioned until finally all but about one-third of the West Pier was utilised solely for Admiralty purposes. It was some time after the cessation of hostilities before any of the Admiralty staff was withdrawn, and not until 31st March, 1920, that the Harbour was completely free to resume its commercial activities.

Following upon the war, trade gradually returned until it ultimately reached a reasonably comparative standard with pre-war years. As still larger vessels were now arriving at the Harbour, further dredging operations were carried out at the West Pier, including the widening of all the berths and channels. In 1926 the miners' strike, which lasted from 3rd May to 29th November and which developed into a general strike, seriously affected the general trade of the Harbour and resulted in a fifty per cent drop in the coal exports for the year. By this time the shipment of coal and coke had returned to and was surpassing its highest pre-war level. In addition to the bunkering of local trawlers, an ever-increasing number of fishing vessels from Aberdeen and other East Coast harbours were finding it more economical to obtain their bunker coal at Granton than in their home ports. In 1927 a third 25 ton coaling crane, similar to those at the West Pier, was erected on the Middle Pier. This crane, though not entirely reserved for the bunkering of trawlers, was almost continuously in use for that purpose.

Early in 1932 the Harbour undertaking was converted into a private limited company of which the 7th Duke of Buccleuch was the first Chairman. In the same year the reconditioning of practically the whole of the timber wharves at the West Pier was commenced. This work extended over a considerable period, having to be carried out with the minimum dislocation of the traffic, and proved to be a task both of great magnitude and expense, as in many parts complete reconstruction was found to be necessary.

During the following years coal shipments steadily increased, and the provision of still further facilities had to be considered. As the import trade was being maintained, there was no quayage available for conversion into another coaling berth, and after several schemes had received consideration, it was finally decided to construct a new reinforced concrete jetty across the end of the Middle Pier and to provide there a berth with 25 feet of water at L.W.O.S.T. On this jetty a coal conveyor of the latest design would be installed along with two weighbridges for the weighing of full and empty wagons. The year 1937 marked the centenary of the founding of Granton Harbour by the 5th Duke of Buccleuch, and the 17th of September was chosen as the date upon which this occasion would be celebrated. A large company, which included the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch, the Earl of Dalkeith and representatives of shipping and other commercial concerns, attended the celebrations. The occasion was opened by the laying by His Grace of a foundation stone at the site of the new coaling jetty to inaugurate the new works and to commemorate the centenary of the Harbour. After presentations had been made to the older members of the staff, the company proceeded on a cruise up the Firth of Forth, during which a luncheon was held aboard the steamer.

The work on the new jetty progressed rapidly for a time but was delayed latterly by the outbreak of the Second World War. Owing to the difficulty in obtaining materials the construction of the Coal Conveyor was also retarded, and it was not until late in 1943 that it was put into operation.

Upon the declaration of war in 1939 the Harbour came under the jurisdiction of the Admiralty, and it was not until March, 1946, six and a half years later, that the Harbour was de-requisitioned. Throughout that period no commercial trade was carried on at Granton.

The question now arose, would pre-war trade in its entirety ever return? Fortunately, as far as the import trade was concerned, it did: unfortunately the export of coal did not. At all Forth ports the export of coal had been for many years their principal source of revenue and it soon became evident that no coal for export purposes was available, nor was likely to be available for a long time to come. In this respect Granton suffered along with the others, though the bunkering of trawlers and other vessels was carried out as before. In more recent years the shipments of gas coke have been increasingly resumed, but it would appear that the resumption of the shipment of coal is dependent upon how quickly the great developments stated to be taking place in the Lothian coalfields reach maturity. In the past two years, however, Granton has provided accommodation for a considerable number of the vessels engaged in the import of foreign coal to this country. In addition a large quantity of coal has been arriving at the Harbour from North East England ports for use at the gasworks. The discharge of both the foreign and the coastwise coal has been very expeditiously carried out by means of grabs, supplied by the Harbour, and attached to the electric cranes with which the port had been equipped.

It was very gratifying to find that one of the first of the imports to return to the Harbour was Esparto Grass. Granton has been for many years the principal Esparto importing port in the British Isles, and throughout most of the present century Esparto has been the largest individual commodity imported. The return of the trawlers, many of which had again served as minesweepers, was also welcome. In the past an outstanding grievance of the trawler owners had been that there were no facilities at Granton for the dry-docking of their vessels for periodic overhauling and repairs. In order to meet their requirements in this respect the Harbour Company purchased from the Admiralty a concrete floating dock which had been specially constructed for dealing with vessels of this size, but which had never been in use. The towage of this unwieldy structure from the South of England to Granton was mostly carried out in such deplorable weather conditions that those engaged in the operation considered it fortunate that it ever reached its destination. The dock is moored alongside the West Pier, towards its shoreward end, clear of the deep water discharging berths. Since its arrival at Granton the dock has been almost continually in demand, not only by the local trawlers, but by various other types of small vessels.

It had been decided that the reconstruction of a section of quayage near the outer end of the Middle Pier would be put in hand immediately the work on the new concrete jetty was completed. The new quay, which is 485 feet in length, is constructed of concrete faced with Larssen steel sheet piling, and was completed in 1949. At the same time the demolition of an extensive range of old sheds, which stood at this berth and extended right across the Pier, was carried out. On part of the cleared area, and immediately adjoining the new concrete quay, a modern shed was erected in 1953 for the transit and storage of general cargoes.

This concludes the account of the more important developments carried out at the Harbour in the last and the present centuries. The present day facilities at the Harbour are detailed in the immediately succeeding pages of the Handbook.

Facilities and trade

Granton Harbour – Lat. 55° 59' North: Long. 3° 15' West – is situated on the south side of the Firth of Forth, one and a half miles west of the Port of Leith and less than three miles from the centre of the City of Edinburgh. There is good anchorage in the roads outside the Harbour which are afforded protection from easterly winds by the Island of Inchkeith.

Harbour Lights and Signals

A fixed green light on the outer end of the East Breakwater: a fixed red light at the head of the Middle Pier: and a fixed red light at the head of the West Pier. In fog an electric motor siren gives 2 blasts of 2 seconds each with 2 seconds interval between them, every 30 seconds.

A red flag bearing a white St. George’s Cross exhibited at the Middle Pier head signifies that vessels should not enter the Harbour until the flag is lowered.

A red light takes the place of the flag during hours of darkness.

Tugs and Pilotage

Tugs and Pilotage are available, but are optional. Vessels in roads requiring a pilot should display the customary signal: when visibility is bad they should make one long followed by one short blast on their whistle or siren.

Quayage and Berthage

The Middle Pier is 1,700 feet in length and 200 feet wide on the average. Additional quayage 450 feet in length has been constructed across the end of the Middle Pier, upon which a Coal Conveyor has been erected. The West Pier has a total length of 3,100 feet, the outer 2,000 of which is lined with timber wharves. Vessels of from 2,000 to over 8,000 tons gross are regularly berthed at those wharves. With the additional protection of the East Breakwater, 3,170 feet in length, the Harbour provides safe berthage for vessels of all types.

Depths of Water

The Harbour is tidal, there being no dock gates: the rise of tide is 17 feet at Spring Tides and 12 feet at Neap Tides. The entrance to the Harbour is 340 feet in width, and coasters and other small craft drawing up to 13 feet can enter and leave the Harbour at all states of the tide, while vessels drawing up to 30 feet of water can enter and leave at high water. At the Middle Pier there is a depth of from nil at the shoreward end to 17 feet at L.W.O.S.T., and at the coaling berth across the end of the Pier the depth of water is 25 feet at L.W.O.S.T. At the wharfage at the West Pier vessels drawing up to 21 feet of water can be kept afloat at all states of the tide, and up to 25 feet at Neap Tides, there being a depth of water varying from 15 feet to 23 feet at L.W.O.S.T.

(L.W.O.S.T. means low water ordinary spring tide...)
Railways and Roads

All the berths in the Harbour are connected up with the British Railways system, and there is extensive standage accommodation immediately adjoining the Harbour for coal and other traffic. There are also first-class roads running the entire length of both the Middle Pier and the West Pier, connected up with all the berths. In more recent years road facilities have been increasingly used by importers, and Granton Harbour is particularly well suited for those trades in which road transport is an important factor, as it is not necessary to pass through any congested areas to reach either the centre of the City or the surrounding districts.

Sheds and Storage

At the Middle Pier there is a spacious modern shed for the transit and storage of general cargoes. This shed, which has a concrete floor, is 243 feet long and 63 feet wide, and is lofty and well ventilated, with natural light from rooflights and windows. There are 7 doors each 18 feet high, and modern mechanical handling equipment can enter and work within the shed. The shed is fronted by a concrete quay 485 feet in length, with crane track and two sets of railway lines, and the quay berth has a depth of water of 17 feet at L.W.O.S.T. There is road access to both sides and one end of the shed. At the West Pier also there is a shed which provides covered accommodation for cargo. There is ample storage ground available at the Harbour suitable for logs, sawn timber, etc.

Coaling Appliances

A modern Belt Coal Conveyor, which can load vessels at a rate of 400 tons per hour, is situated at the outer end of the Middle Pier. This conveyor can also be operated at slower speeds for the delivery of bunker coal.

An anti-breaker device can be fitted to the conveyor if required; also a rotary spout is available. For the bunkering of trawlers and vessels of similar construction, a breeches chute can be supplied. There are also three 25-ton Coaling Cranes, two on the West Pier and one on the Middle Pier, each capable of loading up to 300 tons per hour.

The coaling of steamers is carried out at the conveyor and at the cranes between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., and the bunkering of trawlers at the conveyor up to 11 p.m., provided the vessel can be finished. Bunkering of trawlers can also be carried out by pans operated by the electric cargo cranes.

Cargo Cranes

The berths are equipped with fast working electric travelling level luffing quay cranes, mostly of 3 tons capacity. Two similar cranes of 5/6 tons capacity are also being installed. These cranes can be fitted with grabs for the discharge of bulk cargoes if required. In addition there are several diesel mobile cranes and steam quay cranes. Should individual heavy lifts be at any time required, these can be carried out by the coaling cranes.

Capstans are installed at regular intervals at the West and Middle Piers for the haulage of railway wagons.


Two 42-ton self-indicating Weighbridges for the weighing of rail and road traffic are installed at the West Pier, and two 35-ton Weighbridges at the Coal Conveyor on the Middle Pier.

Coal Trimming

The work of trimming steamers is carried out under National Tariff conditions. The trimming of trawlers' bunkers at the Coal Conveyor is carried out under a Local Agreement.

Sites for Industrial Development

Building sites are available within a short distance of the Harbour, and anyone interested in the establishment of new industries or trades will receive every assistance from the Harbour Company. Water mains, electricity and gas mains, and sewers are all within easy access of the sites. The City assessments covering public services are reasonable and compare very favourably with those levied in any of the larger cities. Granton is favoured by an excellent Corporation bus service by various routes to the City; by the shortest route the centre of the City can be reached in just over 15 minutes.

Adjoining the Harbour are a number of workshops occupied by engineers, electric welders, ship repairers, riggers, etc., who not only undertake repairs to shipping but carry out general repair work.

Floating Dock

A floating dry dock, moored alongside the West Pier, is available for the docking of trawlers and coasters of a length not exceeding 160 feet and a draught not exceeding 15 feet. On the floating dock the following services are available – welding plant, compressor, sea water pressure pump and additional lighting equipment. The Harbour Company does not carry out repairs to vessels using the dock, but there are local ship repairers who specialise in this type of work.

Supplies of Bunker Coal

Supplies of Bunker Coal are always kept in readiness in the Harbour sidings by local agents.

Fuel Oil

Supplies of fuel oil for bunkers are available by pipe line at several points at West Pier and From a tank at the Middle Pier. Gas Oil will also be supplied at the Middle Pier. Oil bunkers can be brought into the Harbour for delivery alongside in tank barges and road or rail tank wagons.

Fresh Water

Fresh Water from pipes connected up with the City of Edinburgh water mains is available at all berths.

Electricity for Repairs, etc.

Current can be supplied to vessels from a number of points on the quays and clusters can be hired if required. The supply of electricity is 240 volts A.C. 50 cycles for lighting, or it can be supplied at 110 volts A.C. at certain points (maximum load 60 amps).


The present-day Imports consist mainly of esparto grass, wood pulp, motor spirit, fuel oil, timber, box-boards, paper, bog ore and general merchandise.


The Exports comprise principally coal, coke and coke breeze, machinery and general goods.


The Port of Granton is the headquarters of the Firth of Forth fleet of trawlers which operate in the North Sea.

Yachting Regulations
  • Royal Forth Yacht Club, Boswall Road, Edinburgh 5. (Tel. Edinburgh Granton 830061).
  • Forth Corinthian Yacht Club, 10 Royal Terrace, Edinburgh 7. (Tel. Edinburgh CEN 1130).
  • Almond Yacht Club, Middle Pier, Granton, Edinburgh 5.

The following regulations in respect of Moorings have been drawn up by the Joint Moorings Committee, and must be adhered to: Owners will not be permitted to lay moorings until the appropriate Charges nave been paid and a Permit has been obtained from the Harbour Authorities. All moorings must conform to the following specification: – Vessels of 35 ft. and under – ground chain 30 ft.: 1 sinker and 1 mushroom or sinker: I swivel: riding chain 25 ft.: wire junk, pick-up rope and buoy. Vessels exceeding 35 ft. – ground chain 50 ft. : otherwise as per foregoing specification.

Ground chains should be in two halves, shackling to a ring at the centre for lifting purposes. All shackle pins must be wired. Moorings of sailing dinghies and small craft do not require to conform to specification, but must be laid within the area set aside for such craft.

Moorings must be laid in the berth allotted. A copy of the berthing plan is in the hands of the Joint Club Boatman, whose assistance is available to Owners. It is recommended that the laying of moorings should be entrusted to one of the recognised firms specialising in this work. The Committee retain the power to order the removal of any mooring incorrectly laid.

Each vessel for which moorings have been laid is entitled to one rowing dinghy, for which there is no further payment. Yacht dinghies must be moored at the official dinghy moorings. Application for the use of these should be made to the Joint Club Boatman. No dinghy may be left tied astern of any yacht. All moorings must be lifted at the end of the season unless still in use.

Esparto grass – contributed by Mr. L. R. Grant, President of the British Esparto Sellers Association

The average annual import into the United Kingdom of Esparto Grass is rather more than 300,000 tons, of which about one-third is imported into Granton Harbour. Esparto is a grass (belonging to the family Gramineae) which grows wild on the uplands of North Africa and Spain. Almost one hundred years ago it was found that the cellulose obtainable from this plant was eminently suitable for making high-class paper and it has become a major industry in Scotland, where it is used as a raw material by twenty-three Paper Mills, eleven of which are situated in the vicinity of Edinburgh, and it is these latter which import most of their supplies from North Africa through Granton Harbour.

Esparto Grass is not cultivated; it is a natural growth and cannot be cut by scythe or reaper, but is pulled by hand, mainly by natives of nomadic tribes. It is then dried in the sun, baled by mechanical presses and shipped chiefly from such ports as Oran and Nemours in Algeria, Sfax and Sousse in Tunisia, and Tripoli. While Wood Pulp is – and will always remain – the leading raw material for making paper, the reason for the use of Esparto Grass is not without interest. Until the middle of the nineteenth century almost the only raw material used for paper making was rags, obtained chiefly from discarded clothing. In 1861 the duty on paper was abolished allowing Paper Makers in this country to develop the industry without restriction. It also coincided with a great upsurge in the demand for paper for which the supply of rags as raw material was wholly inadequate.

Some years previously Thomas Routledge, of Eynsham, had carried out extensive trials with Esparto Grass and patented his process for digesting and bleaching it. Within a short time it was adopted as a raw material by a number of Paper Makers. Chemicals, coal and a plentiful supply of pure water are essential for the treatment of Esparto and in consequence Scotland, then and ever since, has played an important part in the commercial development of this raw material. Since that time, of course, the technique of manufacture has undergone vast improvement although the basic principle has not altered, and the quality of paper produced by Esparto is such that neither the discovery of wood as a suitable raw material nor the tremendous development of the wood pulp industry has succeeded in ousting Esparto as a paper making fibre.

The standard set by Esparto Papers has had a great influence, not only in the development of paper making, but also of printing. Although today wood pulp must be described as the world’s raw material for the manufacture of paper, since well over ninety per cent of the world’s paper comes from the forests, and while wood pulp soon outstripped Esparto in quantity of production, the standard of British Esparto Papers became a kind of ideal which the wood pulp paper makers tried to emulate. The Esparto imported in such quantities at Granton is delivered to the Paper Mills where it is cooked at a high temperature in a solution of caustic soda, washed and bleached. The length of Esparto fibre is about one and a half millimetres, which is very short as compared with wood pulp, where the fibre (Spruce and Pine) is about three and a half millimetres long, but the Esparto fibre is smooth, slightly curved and with a relatively thick wall. These physical attributes are responsible for papers of high opacity, smooth surface, a lack of "stretch" and high "bulk" – weight for weight Esparto papers are 15 to 20 per cent greater in bulk or thickness than most other papers. Esparto Paper therefore is ideal for many purposes where high quality without great strength is required, such as for lithographic and colour printing, feather-weight book papers, body paper for coating, the highest class writing paper and many other uses.

The yield on Bleached Esparto Pulp is only about 40 to 42 per cent of the raw grass, compared with a 90 per cent yield of bleached wood pulp. The cost c.i.f. Granton is little more than one-third the price of wood pulp, but against this the manufacturing process involves the use of some five to six tons of basic materials to make one ton of paper (coal, caustic, lime, etc., as well as the raw material) and some 200 tons of water.

Petroleum products – Contributed by Scottish Oils & Shell-Mex Ltd.

In the early years of the present century the capabilities of the internal combustion engine had become recognised to such an extent that it was becoming increasingly difficult to cope with the demands for motor spirit, particularly in Scotland. Various concerns interested in the importation and distribution of spirit had installations in England and it was upon these that Scotland depended for obtaining deliveries.

In 1909 the Anglo-Saxon Petroleum Co. Ltd. leased a site at Granton upon which the first of their Scottish installations was erected, and from which, for a number of years, supplies of spirit were despatched to all parts of Scotland to which the railways had access. The spirit was brought to the Harbour at Granton in specially constructed tank barges which were towed across from Rotterdam and berthed close inshore at a small jetty near the West Pier, the spirit being pumped from the barges to the installation. It is to be conceived that in prolonged periods of adverse weather conditions this method of importation must have proved to be rather unreliable.

The demands being made upon the installation soon necessitated a larger importation than could be maintained by tank barges, and a deep water berth at the outer end of the West Pier was provided by the Harbour Company at which ocean tankers with part cargoes could be discharged. Pipe lines were laid down from the installation to this berth to enable the spirit to be pumped direct from the vessels to the storage tanks.

For some time distribution was made entirely by rail, either in tank wagons or in steel drums or 2-gallon cans loaded into railway trucks. Thousands of those 2-gallon cans were filled in the course of a day by equipment specially designed for that purpose. During the years there have, of course, been a great many developments in the field of petroleum products, but these are too comprehensive to be dealt with here, and so we will pass on to present day activities. The installation, which now belongs to Scottish Oils and Shell-Mex Ltd., has a tankage capacity which exceeds 21- million gallons. In the tanks various grades of motor spirit are stored – Shell, B.P. Super, N.B.M. (National Benzole Mixture), B.P., and Shell-Mex – also Derv Fuel for motor vehicles, Fuel Oil for industrial and marine purposes, Aviation Turbine Fuel, Burning and Vaporising Oils, and certain specialised products. These products are now sent out mainly in bulk, either in road or rail tank wagons.

Many grades of Bitumen manufactured in Scotland are received at the installation in bulk road wagons or in steam heated rail cars, which are discharged into insulated storage tanks. The temperature in these tanks can be raised very quickly by means of a special process employing injection flame. Despatches from the installation are arranged by loading vehicles via insulated steam traced lines, thus enabling the product to be supplied at a suitable temperature to road making sites, etc.

In view of the complaints being made regarding the pollution of our coastal waters and beaches with oil, it may be of interest to record the method by which the drainage from the installation is effected. The installation is equipped with one open three-section interceptor which passes underground to a further three enclosed interceptors. By this means all outlet liquid – surface water, steam condensate, etc. – is trapped, enabling any floating oil to be retained. Thus water only is permitted to pass through the drainage into the Firth of Forth and all possibility of contamination is eliminated.

The trawling industry – Contributed by Mr. James Steven, A.A.C.C.A., Secretary, Newhaven & Granton Trawler Owners’ Association.

It is not known when Britain’s fishermen first began trawling, but by the middle of last century it was a well-established industry off the South Coast of England, where it met with such success that other parts of England, notably the East Coast, rapidly followed suit in developing this new method of catching fish. Strong objections were raised by the older fishing communities to this allegedly destructive mode of fishing, and, in deference thereto, Commissioners on the Sea Fisheries of the United Kingdom were called upon in 1866 to make a thorough investigation into the matter, with a view to having trawling prohibited or at least severely restricted. The Report by the Commissioners, however, not only set aside all the objections raised, but recognised trawling to be of great value and, by reason of its productivity, an effective means of enriching the diet of the great masses of people.

This Report stimulated a still greater interest in trawling, but it was not until nearly 20 years later, in 1885, that the first steam trawlers commenced operations from the port of Granton. The Harbour, with its depth of water providing easy access at all states of the tide, and its proximity to the large consuming areas surrounding Edinburgh, was an ideal situation for the trawling industry. It had the additional advantage that coal for bunkering was readily available from the nearby Lothian Coalfields. The early trawlers were much smaller than those in use to-day and as fishing was carried out at no great distance from the coast, three trips and landings were possible in the course of one week.

Once established, the growth of the trawling industry at Granton was very rapid. Larger and still larger vessels were added to the fleet, with greatly increased bunker and fish carrying capacities, thus enabling them to fish more distant grounds. Increased landings demanded a wider market and large supplies were now sent daily to Glasgow. A "fish special" train left Granton every morning for that city, often in duplicate.

On the outbreak of the First World War. the Granton fishing fleet, along with others, was called upon to undertake a sterner task, all the newer vessels being taken over by the Admiralty and converted into minesweepers or patrol ships. In the course of the war, 46 trawlers of the Granton fleet were requisitioned, and 6 of these were sunk by enemy action. Throughout the war the remaining vessels, despite the increased perils of the North Sea, continued to make their regular trips to the fishing grounds, and damage to vessels and casualties among the crews were sustained. The Second World War again resulted in the requisitioning of a considerable number of the Granton Fishing Fleet. On this occasion, the North Sea was closed entirely to trawling, and the remainder of the Granton Fleet was transferred to the West Coast. While engaged on fishing operations there, 13 vessels were lost.

The North Sea remained undisturbed by fishing operations for 6 years and, consequently, when trawling was resumed after the war, abnormally heavy catches of fish were obtained. This regular and plentiful supply of trawled fresh fish was a valuable contribution to the nation’s larder at a time when other commodities remained scarce, and without it, the problem of providing good protein food in sufficient quantity would have been much greater.

At the present time, about 300,000 cwts. of white fish are landed annually at Granton. In order to maintain the high quality of fish, vessels have now to proceed to fishing grounds at a considerable distance, the round trip taking from 10 to 12 days and involving a consumption of from 75 to 100 tons of bunker coal. The fish is carefully boxed at sea, packed in ice manufactured at Granton and carried to sea in the holds of the trawlers. On arrival at Granton the boxes of fish are discharged by crane to lorries which speedily transport them not only to the local market at Newwhaven and Glasgow, but to other points of sale at much greater distances. For this purpose a fleet of modern motor lorries has superseded the one-time *quot;fish special", and as the fish is dispatched immediately on arrival, whether by day or night, it arrives at its appointed destination in the freshest possible condition. In recent years box-washing plants have been installed at close proximity to the Harbour to deal with the returned empty boxes and to ensure that the highest standard of hygiene is maintained in the packing of the fish.

The near future will see the arrival at the Port of the first of the modern diesel trawlers, and it seems inevitable that in time fuel oil will replace coal entirely. With a history of 70 energetic and progressive years, Granton now looks to the future, confident that the initiative and enterprise of its fishing community will long retain its reputation for quality and service.

Shipping agents and stevedores – Contributed by Mr. G. E. Cormack, Messrs. Moffatt & Warden Ltd.

Shipping Agents and Stevedores have played an important part in building up the imports and exports to and from Granton.

ESPARTO GRASS: At least four firms have operated for over fifty years at Granton, including Young & Leslie, Stevedores, and among the Shipping Agents, Chr. Salvesen & Co., Moffatt & Warden Ltd. and Reid & Howard Ltd. All these firms have contributed towards making Granton the most important port in Britain for the import of Esparto Grass from North Africa – a trade requiring expert knowledge in handling from ship’s hold to paper mill.

COAL SHIPMENTS to and from Granton are facilitated by crane equipment capable of handling steamers of up to about 5,000 tons. A Coal Conveyor is provided for rapid bunkering and loading of coal cargoes. During the period of coal shortage in Scotland, over 75,000 tons of coal were imported at Granton from the Continent during a period of nine months, the average rate of discharge per day being in the region of 1,000 tons.

GAS COKE: Owing to proximity of large Gasworks at Granton Harbour, large quantities of coke and breeze are shipped to the Continent annually.

GENERAL CARGO: The new quay and shed facilities at the Middle Pier meet requirements for all commmodities needing under-cover storage.

Shipping Agents and Stevedores bear a direct responsibility in promoting the trade of their own particular port, and the foregoing firms, after long experience, can confirm that the Harbour facilities at Granton have kept pace with the requirements of modern tonnage, as regards dispatch and the efficient handling of cargo.

List of shipowners, shipping agents and stevedores

Shipbrokers and Shipping & Forwarding Agents:-
Stevedores and Contractors:-
Suppliers of Bunker Coal:-
Suppliers of Fuel Oil:-
Suppliers of Ice:-

Granton Harbour Ltd. wish to thank all who have assisted in the publication of this Handbook.

Home Introduction Main pages Maps Information Contact me