The seven lives of Europe’s fastest growing port

The Port of Barcelona is the city’s economic driving force and its docks host and are the focal point of a vast amount of tourist, leisure, transport and logistics activities. With historical results, cargo traffic has exceeded 61 million tons and more than four million passengers have visited the port. Here’s the story of the port’s seven lives.
J

acques-Yves Cousteau, officer of the French navy, achieved worldwide fame in his civil life as an explorer and researcher of the underwater world. A born seducer, he knew how to charm producers, sponsors and the audience of his film and television documentaries. During his international conferences, which he used to promote his halo of chic adventurer and to raise funds for his oceanographic foundations, he repeated ideas which made his audience think. “Our planet should not have been called Earth, but planet Water,” said Cousteau solemnly, while he showed a world map or a picture of Earth from space.

Cousteau loved nature and was fascinated by all the potential that was hidden under oceans and seas. He always thought about the little we know about something that’s so close. We actually have something in Barcelona that is directly related to the sea that’s also close by and not very well known: the port, a huge economic driving force that is permanently in motion and not very well known unless you’re directly linked to it on a day to day basis. Always present, although we can’t really know its scope, its actual importance for the city, for this great metropolis’ economy and, in general, the enormous influence it has over Barcelona.

The port lives seven parallel lives. Some are better known than others. Some are integrated into the city and others are so tucked away that one could practically say that they are conveniently hidden from unnecessary looks.

  1. The one locals and visitors know best is the leisure and sports one: in addition to accessible piers with leisure options in the Port Vell area, like Moll de la Fusta, Moll d’Espanya or Moll de la Barceloneta, there are two historical sports clubs: the Náutico and the Marítim, in eternal and healthy competition for the last 116 years. The latter had one of the most beautiful buildings in the port from 1913 to 1959, a clubhouse that was designed by the architect Enric Sagnier, which had to be demolished because of the port’s growth and commercial needs. It also includes the moorings and jetties of the One Ocean Port Vell, a marina that specialises in super-yachts where an important economic activity has appeared around these vessels (repairing, maintenance, suppliers, training) and an exclusive club-restaurant for members and visitors. The offer of leisure moorings within the port will be complemented with the imminent opening of Marina Vela, next to the north entrance and at the foot of the iconic Hotel W, which has been part of the city’s skyline in photographs, drawings and logos since it was built.
    Port Vell. Photo by Port de Barcelona
  2. The port’s second life mixes tourism, hedonism and travel: Barcelona is one of the world capitals for cruise ships, made evident by the 2.7 million passengers who visited the city aboard these tourism ships, which generate jobs and boost the economy around each port they visit. These cruise ship visits, which will exceed 870 in 2018, have a distinctive characteristic: a high percentage of cruise passengers start or end their trip in Barcelona. This has been directly linked to the airport’s growth in number of users and destinations, a kind of air-maritime win-win situation: many new routes, especially intercontinental ones, have been consolidated thanks to the fact that passengers from all over the world start or finish their cruise trips in Barcelona, so this city is the link between their homes and the cruise ships. Another type of smaller-scaled tourism shares the same waters as the cruise ships, but one that also looks at the sea with eager eyes: that of the boats which depart from the steps of Portal de la Pau, in front of Columbus, which offer the possibility of viewing the city’s coastline from the sea or tour the port, as do the historic Golondrinas.
  3. On one these boats, the classic ones, the wooden ones or the glass fibre catamarans, you can discover more of the port’s lives, like the third one: that of the ferries that link Barcelona with five different ports in the Balearic Islands and whose daily service is essential for day to day life in Majorca, Ibiza and Minorca. Every night, they carry the most essential as well as the most unlikely products in their holds to supply the islands. In addition to this fundamental Barcelona-Balearic bridge, there are other ferry services to and from ports in Morocco, Algeria and Italy. In 2017 alone, 1.4 million passengers chose this means of transport to reach their destinations.
  4. Its fourth life is energy, concentrated in large reservoirs and jetties located in the south area of the facility, next to Zona Franca and separated from a large part of the city by the mountain of Montjuic. In that area, actually called muelle de la energía (power docks in Spanish) previously called “flammable”, which was changed for obvious reasons, is where ships of all sizes are always loading and unloading natural gas, petrol and chemical products. Commerce of all three products increased between 23 and 64% in 2017. For security reasons, these are the most remote and restricted areas of the port.
  5. Very close by is the port’s fifth life: the transport of vehicles. Both in the ferries mentioned above and in huge garage-boats that travel the world transporting all types of mechanical traction vehicles from where they are manufactured to where they will be sold and driven. In 2018, 837,273 units were either exported, imported or in transit from one port to another through the port of Barcelona. A figure that, despite having suffered a setback in 2017 (the only one of all the items accounted for in the statistics), is simply spectacular, as is seeing part of all those vehicles lined up in the facilities, ready to board ships or just after disembarking.
  6. The port of Barcelona’s sixth life is bulk transport: products that arrive or are loaded directly into the holds of bulk carriers. These products include cement for construction, potash, used as a fertilizer, food supplements for livestock and various industrial processes that are directly transported to the docks on trains or as scrap, apparently useless when they are unloaded, but that are soon turned into steel in facilities near the port following the course of the river Llobregat. Other goods that are transported from or to the port in bulk are also very important: food oils, soy beans or cereals and flour, which are stored in huge silos and tanks.
    Barcelona is a place of origin, destination and also the exchange port for containers
  7. Now for the port’s seventh life, probably one of the strongest: the container one. Since they were invented in the United States in the mid-50s, these large rectangular metal boxes, marketed in two sizes that always fit, have revolutionised the sector and can be used for intermodal transport by rail, road or sea without having to move the goods inside them. Barcelona is a place of origin, destination and also the exchange port for these containers. Last year, and calculated one by one, the port saw 2,968,757 containers arrive to or depart from its docks, with slightly more exports than imports. These containers are transported in increasingly larger ships with regular lines that connect Barcelona with the world and vice versa.

And why is the port of Barcelona so important? Well, because 90% of world trade is transported by sea, a remarkable figure. As is the 61 million tons of goods (26% more than last year) transported by ship to or from Barcelona and that shows the great importance of these facilities, a place that isn’t very well known but is fundamental for the functioning of the city, the whole country and their economy.

Top 12: Most influential people

BEYONCÉ
JAVIER AND SERGIO TORRES

The seven lives of Europe’s fastest growing port

The Port of Barcelona is the city’s economic driving force and its docks host and are the focal point of a vast amount of tourist, leisure, transport and logistics activities. With historical results, cargo traffic has exceeded 61 million tons and more than four million passengers have visited the port. Here’s the story of the port’s seven lives.
J

acques-Yves Cousteau, officer of the French navy, achieved worldwide fame in his civil life as an explorer and researcher of the underwater world. A born seducer, he knew how to charm producers, sponsors and the audience of his film and television documentaries. During his international conferences, which he used to promote his halo of chic adventurer and to raise funds for his oceanographic foundations, he repeated ideas which made his audience think. “Our planet should not have been called Earth, but planet Water,” said Cousteau solemnly, while he showed a world map or a picture of Earth from space.

Cousteau loved nature and was fascinated by all the potential that was hidden under oceans and seas. He always thought about the little we know about something that’s so close. We actually have something in Barcelona that is directly related to the sea that’s also close by and not very well known: the port, a huge economic driving force that is permanently in motion and not very well known unless you’re directly linked to it on a day to day basis. Always present, although we can’t really know its scope, its actual importance for the city, for this great metropolis’ economy and, in general, the enormous influence it has over Barcelona.

The port lives seven parallel lives. Some are better known than others. Some are integrated into the city and others are so tucked away that one could practically say that they are conveniently hidden from unnecessary looks.

  1. The one locals and visitors know best is the leisure and sports one: in addition to accessible piers with leisure options in the Port Vell area, like Moll de la Fusta, Moll d’Espanya or Moll de la Barceloneta, there are two historical sports clubs: the Náutico and the Marítim, in eternal and healthy competition for the last 116 years. The latter had one of the most beautiful buildings in the port from 1913 to 1959, a clubhouse that was designed by the architect Enric Sagnier, which had to be demolished because of the port’s growth and commercial needs. It also includes the moorings and jetties of the One Ocean Port Vell, a marina that specialises in super-yachts where an important economic activity has appeared around these vessels (repairing, maintenance, suppliers, training) and an exclusive club-restaurant for members and visitors. The offer of leisure moorings within the port will be complemented with the imminent opening of Marina Vela, next to the north entrance and at the foot of the iconic Hotel W, which has been part of the city’s skyline in photographs, drawings and logos since it was built.
    Port Vell. Photo by Port de Barcelona
  2. The port’s second life mixes tourism, hedonism and travel: Barcelona is one of the world capitals for cruise ships, made evident by the 2.7 million passengers who visited the city aboard these tourism ships, which generate jobs and boost the economy around each port they visit. These cruise ship visits, which will exceed 870 in 2018, have a distinctive characteristic: a high percentage of cruise passengers start or end their trip in Barcelona. This has been directly linked to the airport’s growth in number of users and destinations, a kind of air-maritime win-win situation: many new routes, especially intercontinental ones, have been consolidated thanks to the fact that passengers from all over the world start or finish their cruise trips in Barcelona, so this city is the link between their homes and the cruise ships. Another type of smaller-scaled tourism shares the same waters as the cruise ships, but one that also looks at the sea with eager eyes: that of the boats which depart from the steps of Portal de la Pau, in front of Columbus, which offer the possibility of viewing the city’s coastline from the sea or tour the port, as do the historic Golondrinas.
  3. On one these boats, the classic ones, the wooden ones or the glass fibre catamarans, you can discover more of the port’s lives, like the third one: that of the ferries that link Barcelona with five different ports in the Balearic Islands and whose daily service is essential for day to day life in Majorca, Ibiza and Minorca. Every night, they carry the most essential as well as the most unlikely products in their holds to supply the islands. In addition to this fundamental Barcelona-Balearic bridge, there are other ferry services to and from ports in Morocco, Algeria and Italy. In 2017 alone, 1.4 million passengers chose this means of transport to reach their destinations.
  4. Its fourth life is energy, concentrated in large reservoirs and jetties located in the south area of the facility, next to Zona Franca and separated from a large part of the city by the mountain of Montjuic. In that area, actually called muelle de la energía (power docks in Spanish) previously called “flammable”, which was changed for obvious reasons, is where ships of all sizes are always loading and unloading natural gas, petrol and chemical products. Commerce of all three products increased between 23 and 64% in 2017. For security reasons, these are the most remote and restricted areas of the port.
  5. Very close by is the port’s fifth life: the transport of vehicles. Both in the ferries mentioned above and in huge garage-boats that travel the world transporting all types of mechanical traction vehicles from where they are manufactured to where they will be sold and driven. In 2018, 837,273 units were either exported, imported or in transit from one port to another through the port of Barcelona. A figure that, despite having suffered a setback in 2017 (the only one of all the items accounted for in the statistics), is simply spectacular, as is seeing part of all those vehicles lined up in the facilities, ready to board ships or just after disembarking.
  6. The port of Barcelona’s sixth life is bulk transport: products that arrive or are loaded directly into the holds of bulk carriers. These products include cement for construction, potash, used as a fertilizer, food supplements for livestock and various industrial processes that are directly transported to the docks on trains or as scrap, apparently useless when they are unloaded, but that are soon turned into steel in facilities near the port following the course of the river Llobregat. Other goods that are transported from or to the port in bulk are also very important: food oils, soy beans or cereals and flour, which are stored in huge silos and tanks.
    Barcelona is a place of origin, destination and also the exchange port for containers
  7. Now for the port’s seventh life, probably one of the strongest: the container one. Since they were invented in the United States in the mid-50s, these large rectangular metal boxes, marketed in two sizes that always fit, have revolutionised the sector and can be used for intermodal transport by rail, road or sea without having to move the goods inside them. Barcelona is a place of origin, destination and also the exchange port for these containers. Last year, and calculated one by one, the port saw 2,968,757 containers arrive to or depart from its docks, with slightly more exports than imports. These containers are transported in increasingly larger ships with regular lines that connect Barcelona with the world and vice versa.

And why is the port of Barcelona so important? Well, because 90% of world trade is transported by sea, a remarkable figure. As is the 61 million tons of goods (26% more than last year) transported by ship to or from Barcelona and that shows the great importance of these facilities, a place that isn’t very well known but is fundamental for the functioning of the city, the whole country and their economy.