Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom, located in the northern part of the island of Great Britain. It has a population of approximately 5.4 million and is known for its distinct cultural heritage, including the Scottish Gaelic language, traditional music, and national dress.
Scotland’s trade is a significant aspect of its economy. The country’s largest export partner has been the Netherlands for 5 of the past 6 years, with the USA being the largest in 2016.
According to the HMRC Regional Trade Statistics, Scotland has the fastest growing goods exports of the four UK nations, with Scottish goods exports increasing each year since 2013. In 2018, international goods exports from Scotland totaled £32.2 billion, with 54% of all Scottish goods exports going to EU countries.
10 Major Scottish ports of Scotland
- 10 Major Scottish ports of Scotland
- 1. Aberdeen Harbour
- 2. Grangemouth Port
- 3. Port of Dundee
- 4. Leith Port
- 5. Greenock Port
- 6. Rosyth Port
- 7. Inverness Port
- 8. Cromarty Firth
- 9. Port of Peterhead
- 10. Scrabster Harbour
- Major Exports from Scottish Ports
- Main imports to Scottish ports
Scotland has a variety of hubs and terminals situated across the country in prime locations for import and export freight. The central belt between Glasgow and Edinburgh is Scotland’s most populated region with many international businesses and logistics firms headquartered within the region.
Grangemouth is Scotland’s largest individual port, handling 9 million tonnes of cargo each year through liquid, specialist container and general cargo terminals, which handle over 225,000 TEUs each year.
1. Aberdeen Harbour
- Location: Aberdeen
- Port type: Commercial
- Rating: 4.5
Aberdeen Harbour, now known as the Port of Aberdeen, is a significant sea port located in the city of Aberdeen on the east coast of Scotland. It was first established in 1136 and has since been continually developed, with the most recent expansion being the construction of a new harbor at Nigg Bay to the south of the existing harbor.
The port is a trust port, owned and operated by the Aberdeen Harbour Board. It has a size of 38.8km² and a draft depth of 8.5 meters. The port has been a key support for the offshore oil and gas industry operating in the North Sea since the 1970s.
In 2022, the harbor was rebranded as the Port of Aberdeen. The port’s statistics include 6,141 vessel arrivals in 2020, an annual cargo tonnage of 3,212,978 in 2020, and 64,000 in passenger traffic in 2020.
The port has a quay length of 5,900m and a website for more information.
The port has played a vital role in Scottish trade and commerce for around 900 years. The new and expanded facility will create over 15,000 jobs and boost the country’s energy sector.
Offering the largest berthage in the country, Aberdeen is constantly evolving to support new businesses and provides logistics services to its customers.
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2. Grangemouth Port
- Location: Grangemouth
- Port type: Commercial, container terminal
- Scotland’s largest container terminal
Grangemouth is the main port of Central Scotland, handling approximately 9 million tonnes of cargo annually, including containers, liquid, and general cargo. It is Scotland’s largest container terminal port, with feeder operations across the UK, Europe, and the world.
The port is located on the south shore of the River Forth estuary and has been a key hub for the importing and refining of petroleum, as well as the associated petrochemical industry. It also serves as a busy container port, with services to both northern Europe and North America.
Grangemouth’s port facilities have been constantly updated and enlarged, and it is an essential economic facilitator for Scotland, handling as much as 30% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
The port is situated midway between Scotland’s main cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh, making it an ideal logistics and distribution hub. Grangemouth is home to Scotland’s largest container terminal and reefer facility, handling over 250,000 TEUs each year.
The port is serviced by 7 weekly feeder vessel calls, and 70% of Scotland’s population is within a one-hour drive of the port. The port is also rail-linked to the main East and West Coast lines, providing efficient transportation links.
Grangemouth’s portcentric approach reduces double handling and unnecessary road miles, creating significant savings in logistics costs. The port works with and supports a range of industries, including food and drink, chemicals, agriculture, recycling, FMCG, construction, oil and gas, and renewables, offering a one-stop sustainable logistics solution.
The port provides seven weekly feeder services and is used by ten global shipping companies. It has upgraded infrastructure and 500,000 square feet of warehousing facilities. It is also well connected to the railway infrastructure.
3. Port of Dundee
- Location: Dundee
- Port type: Commercial
The Port of Dundee is a major port located on the east coast of Scotland, on the north side of the sheltered River Tay estuary. It is one of the largest economic generators in the City of Dundee and the Tayside region of eastern Scotland.
The port offers a wide range of services, including handling bulk commodities such as mineral salt, grains, cereals, fertilizers, iron ore, and coal. It also has facilities for decommissioning, offshore wind, and oil and gas industry services and support.
The port has undergone significant investment, including the addition of a new quayside to accommodate decommissioning and offshore wind farm industry needs. It has 6 working berths, 100,000m³ of liquid storage, and a decommissioning facility.
The port is strategically located between Aberdeen and the central belt of Scotland, with efficient road links and rail connections. It serves the North Sea sector, including traditional oil and gas and the transition to low carbon energy sources.
The Port of Dundee is a key player in the handling of bulk commodities and is a significant economic driver for the region.
4. Leith Port
- Location: Edinburgh
- Port type: Commercial
- Scotland’s biggest enclosed deepwater port
Leith is an historic port in the north of Edinburgh, Scotland, and is part of the council area of the City of Edinburgh. It is the country’s largest enclosed deep-water port, capable of handling vessels up to 50,000 deadweight tonnes.
The port has 2 dry dock facilities and can handle in excess of 1 million tonnes of cargo. Leith is also home to the Royal Yacht Britannia and is a marquee cruise call destination. The port has a strong focus on a range of cargo types, including grain, animal feed, steel pipes, and recycled products, supporting industries such as food production, oil and gas, and agriculture.
The port is well connected to Scotland’s road and rail networks and is strategically positioned for North Sea shipping activities. Leith’s facilities, infrastructure, and multimodal connections, along with its excellent links to other local ports, make it a key player in Scotland’s maritime industry.
The port is a busy facility that has seen record throughput in recent years and is open to discussing opportunities for commercial development using its land and warehousing facilities to support the efficiency and growth of its customers’ businesses.
5. Greenock Port
- Location: Greenock
- Port type: Commercial
Greenock Port is a cruise port located on the south bank of the River Clyde in Greenock, Scotland. It is the cruise port for Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city, and is connected to the city by frequent train services from Greenock Center and Greenock West stations.
The port has two berths for cruise ships and a cruise terminal building with information desks and stalls selling local merchandise. The terminal is a short walk from the center of Greenock, and taxis are also available. The port has a long history, beginning as a fishing community and later becoming a shipping center and shipbuilding hub.
It is now a significant container port and a base for exploring the Scottish countryside and attractions such as Loch Lomond and Stirling Castle. The port is also a marquee cruise call destination, with the Inverclyde Tourist Group offering complimentary walking tours of the town to visiting cruise ship passengers.
The town of Greenock has many historic buildings, including the 75-meter-high Victoria Tower and the adjacent Municipal Buildings built in the 19th century. The port is part of the Clydeport network of ports, which are ideally placed to service Scotland’s largest city and industrial center.
Greenock has a long history of trading. It became famous as a fishing port in the 17th century and was known for the herring trade. In the 18th and 19th centuries, it became a hub of shipbuilding and a point of departure for emigrants. It was also known for oil-refining, pottery, glass and barrel making. Presently, it is a major container port and functions as a ferry port to the northern part of Ireland.
6. Rosyth Port
The Port of Rosyth, located in Fife on the north bank of the River Forth, is a vital hub for various industries, including agricultural bulk products, project cargoes, renewables, oil and gas, and manufacturing.
It has also become an important port of call for cruise liners, experiencing a yearly increase of cruise liners calling in the summer months. The port offers facilities such as large laydown areas adjacent to quaysides, heavy lift capability, deep-water berths, warehousing, and access to Forth Ports’ mobile fleet of cargo-handling equipment.
It has 6 working berths and is an established automotive and agri-hub. The port is well-connected, located just 2 miles from the M90 motorway, and is ideally positioned to support North Sea decommissioning programs with quick vessel mobilization times on short notice. Additionally, it has the capability, flexibility, and willingness to work with customers to deliver complex operations, on and off the water.
The port also works closely with its neighboring industries and Fife Council to bring value to any project coming to the area. Furthermore, it has the perfect layout to provide logistics solutions within the renewables sector, with a successful track record in this area.
Rosyth is a principal port which keeps the nation’s cargo moving. It is a centre for agricultural products, renewables, project cargo, manufacturing and oil and gas. Its ideal location has made it an important port of call for cruise liners, and it has grown manifold due to the timely investments which have transformed it into Scotland’s key turnaround hub.
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7. Inverness Port
- Location: Inverness
- Port type: Commercial
- Rating: 4.2
The Port of Inverness is a natural deep-water port located at the mouth of the River Ness on the east coast of Scotland. It is one of Scotland’s most sheltered and deep natural ports, with a history dating back to 1249.
The port is owned and operated by Inverness Harbour Trust and has four main quays: North Longman, Longman, North Citadel, and South Citadel. The port handles a variety of goods, including oil and fuel, turbines for wind energy converters, timber, coal, salt, animal feed, frozen fish, and fish oil.
The port has easy access to the A9 road and the hinterland of Inverness, the capital of the Scottish Highlands, and there is also ready access to the railway system from Inverness station. Recent years have seen cargo close to 800,000 tonnes per annum and over 300 vessels visiting the port.
While the Port of Inverness can handle smaller cruise vessels, larger cruise liners tend to go to Invergordon, which is a deep water port about 24 miles from Inverness on the Cromarty Firth and allows docking and disembarkation of passengers without the need of a Ship’s tender.
The port is a vital hub for various industries, supporting the economy of the region.
8. Cromarty Firth
The Cromarty Firth is a natural harbor located on the east coast of Scotland, at the mouth of the River Cromarty. It is an arm of the Moray Firth and is one of the safest and most commodious anchorages in the north of Scotland.
The firth is guarded by two precipitous headlands, known as “The Sutors,” and extends inland in a westerly and then south-westerly direction for a distance of 19 miles. The southern shore of the firth is formed by a peninsula known as the Black Isle.
The port facilities at Cromarty Firth are managed by the Cromarty Firth Port Authority and are used for a variety of purposes, including cruise ships, oil processing, and bulk cargo handling. The port is a pivotal port offering the very best in infrastructure, experience, capacity, and supply chain for North Sea oil and gas assets.
It is also home to innovators in offshore wind, oil and gas, and green hydrogen, and is the first port of call for cruise visitors to the Highlands. The firth is designated as a Special Protection Area for wildlife conservation purposes, and many bottlenose dolphins, harbour porpoises, grey seals, and harbour seals live here, while minke whales seasonally migrate.
The port is a strategic national asset and an integral part of the Inverness & Cromarty Firth Green Freeport.
9. Port of Peterhead
The Port of Peterhead is a versatile port located in Peterhead, Scotland, and is one of the UK’s most versatile ports, providing exceptional all-weather, congestion-free deepwater berthing facilities at depths of up to 14 meters.
It serves a broad range of industries, including oil and gas, renewables, fishing, and leisure. The port is owned and operated by the Peterhead Port Authority, which is a trust port and an independent statutory body created by its own local legislation.
The organization is responsible for holding, managing, maintaining, and developing the Port of Peterhead. The port has a rich history, with a fishing harbor that has been in existence for more than 400 years. It has seen strategic investments to provide modern and capable harbor facilities, and it is now the largest fishing port in the UK.
The port has also played a significant role in servicing the offshore oil and gas industry due to its strategic location. In recent years, the port has undergone significant developments, including the construction of a new state-of-the-art fish market and inner harbor reconstruction.
The port is also home to the Peterhead Bay Marina, a purpose-built leisure facility that enables vessels up to 22 meters to berth. The water in the marina is 2.3 meters below chart datum and enables vessels with up to a 2.8-meter draft.
The port continues to build on its long-standing status as the country’s biggest whitefish and pelagic port, and it provides and supports first-class facilities and services for various industries.
The Port of Peterhead is a vital economic asset, and all profits generated from its operations are reinvested into the port for the benefit of stakeholders and to ensure the long-term sustainability of the business
It is made of 11 different areas, namely the North Harbour, Port Henry Basin, Albert Quay, North Base, Merchant’s Quay, Princess Royal Jetty, Tanker Jetty, South Base, and Peterhead Marina etc.
10. Scrabster Harbour
Scrabster Harbour, located in Caithness on the north coast of Scotland, is a strategically positioned port that serves various industries. It is the closest mainland port to the oil and gas activity West of Shetland and on the Atlantic Frontier, making it a key support for the energy sector.
The port also supports marine energy developments off the North coast of Scotland, including offshore wind. Additionally, Scrabster Harbour is a full-service fishing port with modern chilled fish market facilities and is ideally located within close proximity to Northern fishing grounds.
It is an established gateway to the North of Scotland, a recognized cruise port, and has a modern ferry terminal designed to handle both domestic and international traffic. The port is also a residential and commercial property owner, including development opportunities.
Furthermore, it offers weekly services from the Faroe Islands. The port is operated by the Scrabster Harbour Trust and is an important hub for the Scottish fishing industry. It also serves as a ferry terminal, with regular services to Stromness in Orkney.
The port’s versatile facilities and strategic location make it a vital asset for the region’s economy, supporting a wide range of maritime and industrial activities.
Major Exports from Scottish Ports
Scotland’s main exports from its ports include food and drink, legal and accounting services, chemicals, distilling, agriculture, textiles, machinery, and whisky.
The top five exporting industries in 2014 were food and drink, legal and accounting services, chemicals, distilling, and mechanical engineering.
Additionally, Scottish oil exports are typically shipped out of dedicated oil terminals at Forth Ports to various locations.
The Port of Aberdeen is the center of North Sea offshore oil and gas production, while Grangemouth is the biggest petrochemical complex in Scotland and the country’s biggest port.
Main imports to Scottish ports
The main imports to Scottish ports include mineral fuels, lubricants, and related materials, which accounted for 14% of total Scottish imports in 2018. Gas, natural, and manufactured imports from Norway were also significant, valued at £3.3 billion in the same year.
Other major import categories were office and automatic data processing machinery, power generating machinery, and other transport equipment. Scotland’s top five import partners were Norway, China, the USA, Germany, and the Netherlands.
Norway has consistently been the leading source of imports for Scotland, followed by China, the USA, Germany, and the Netherlands.
The Netherlands is a significant source of imports for Scotland, and while it may still be a hub for goods leaving continental Europe bound for Scotland, Scottish businesses are likely aware of the source of their imports.
What is the deepest port in Scotland?
The deepest container ship terminal in Scotland, at the Port of Greenock (Clydeport) has welcomed the largest container vessel ever to berth at the facility. The port which recently won a Green champion award, hosted the 300m long MSC Magnum VII, which has a capacity of 6,750 TEUs (twenty foot equivalent units)
What is the oldest port in Scotland?
Port of Aberdeen, previously Aberdeen Harbour, was established in 1136 by King David I of Scotland. According to the Guinness Book of Business Records, it is the oldest existing business in Britain, with a history that has spanned almost 900 years.
For further Reference, Visit Ports of Scotland