Aberdeen Harbour was the first publicly limited company in the United Kingdom and is today the principal commercial port in northern Scotland and an international port for general cargo, roll-on/roll-off and container traffic. The harbour also serves NorthLink Ferries, which sail to Kirkwall, Orkney and Lerwick, Shetland. The Aberdeen Maritime Museum (on Shiprow in the city centre) includes exhibitions and displays which tell the story of the harbour and its role in the economy and development of the city.
Originally, the defective harbour, with a shallow sand and gravel bar at its entrance, retarded the trade of Aberdeen, but under various acts since 1773 it was greatly deepened.
By the Harbour Act of 1868, the river Dee near the harbour was diverted from the south at a cost of £80,000, and 90 acres (364,000 m²) of new ground, in addition to 25 acres (101,000 m²) formerly made up, were provided on the north side of the river for the Albert Basin (with a graving dock), quays and warehouses. A 1050 ft (320 m) long concrete breakwater was constructed on the south side of the stream as a protection against south-easterly gales. On Girdleness, the southern point of the bay, a lighthouse was built in 1833.
The North Pier, built partly by John Smeaton 1775-81, and partly by Thomas Telford 1810-15, extends nearly 3,000 ft (1000 m) into the North Sea and raised the bar.
Victoria Dock, named in honour of the queen's visit to the city in that year, is a wet dock of 29 acres (117,000 m²) and with 6000 ft (1800 m) of quay, was completed in 1848