History of the port

Ecluse de la Citadelle en 1853

The 19th century

After ten years of war in Europe, the Peace of Amiens led to a remarkable renewal of activity. The abdication of Napoleon I allowed a slight recovery. However, no major works were carried out in the port of Dunkirk between the Revolution and the fall of the Empire because Napoleon preferred Antwerp, allowing its port to benefit from very large-scale works.

The arrival of the railway in 1848 put Dunkirk in direct contact with the hinterland, leading to intensified trade relations and a doubling of traffic volumes. Among the developments which allowed this growth were the construction of railway lines on the quays, and the formation of the Towage Company (Compagnie de Remorquage) in 1859.

In 1861, 15 million francs were allocated by decree to the construction of a wet dock, the relocation of the fortifications, and the completion of the quays of the Commercial Dock.

In 1868 the State granted the mayor, Jules Delelis, the right to collect a duty on tonnages on entry. However, at the end of the Empire, only the levelling and relocation of the fortifications had been achieved and the Commercial Dock was not inaugurated until 1880.

The end of the 19th century saw the building of a large extension on the initiative of Minister Charles de Freycinet comprising the excavation of Docks II, III and IV, the construction of four dry docks for ship repair, and the widening of the channel. In 1888 the Chamber of Commerce was granted a concession to operate the equipment. The Trystram Lock, whose dimensions were colossal for the period (170 m useful length, width 25 m), was commissioned in 1896.