Dr Paul Richards, member of the King’s Lynn Conservancy Board responsible for the navigation and pilotage of the port, takes a look at activity over the last few months. His column appears every two months in Your Local Paper. Pictured is the Selvaagsund arriving to load beans for discharge at a number of small Norwegian fishing ports. She has her own mobile grab for self-discharge.

Over October and November, 46 cargo ships arrived and 44 departed King’s Lynn with 21 and 19 in ballast respectively.  

These figures represent the most buoyant two month period in my reports to Your Local Paper.

 Timber imports from the Baltic remain significant and seven ships landed full cargoes, including three vessels from Riga, Latvia’s capital and a Hanseatic port.  The other four vessels carried part cargoes to Lynn having first unloaded at Hull (2) and Seaham near Sunderland (2).

In October the Nordica Hav and the Smaragd brought cargoes of barley to Lynn from Buckie on Scotland’s east coast for malting in Norfolk. 

 In November the Danica Hav departed The Wash for Buckie with the malt for Scottish distilleries.

A large shipment of 4,400 tonnes of maize was carried to Lynn by the Heike Lehmann from La Pallice on the French Atlantic coast.  It is the deep water port of La Rochelle whose old port area is now an impressive maritime museum.  

Eleven vessels transported wheat from German Baltic ports to Lynn: Mukran (1), Wolgast (2), Rostock (2) and Vierow (6).  

The Lady Clara arrived in The Wash from Wolgast on October 18 to land its load and sailed to Rostock in ballast on October 21 before returning to Lynn on October 30 to discharge another wheat cargo. 

The same sea voyage from Lynn to Rostock and back by German ships in the 15th century took three months.

Barley was again the principal export and testimony to Lynn’s broad and rich agricultural hinterland which has made the port a major grain exporter for centuries.  

There were 15 shipments and a dozen went across the North Sea to Rotterdam from where foodstuffs can be distributed by river and canal barges throughout western Europe. This Dutch port is Europe’s biggest with Antwerp in Belgium second.

Three ships carried barley from The Wash to the Polish Baltic port of Gdansk which joined the Hanseatic League in 1361 and is today a prominent member of the New Hanse. 

Lynn ships were sailing to that city by 1400 with woollen cloth often in exchange for grain.

Three ships departed Lynn with beans.  The Lyrika took a cargo to Rotterdam whilst the Selvaagsund carried two loads to Floro near Bergen. This port of 9000 inhabitants is the most westerly town in Norway which has historic trading ties with Lynn.

The scrap metal mountain on the Bentinck dock has again been diminished by six shipments to three European ports.  

The Sandal and the Seg out of Wisbech transported five loads between them to Klaipeda in Lithuania (3) and Antwerp in Belgium (2). The sixth cargo of scrap metal was carried by the Rimini from Lynn to Tallinn which is the Baltic capital of Estonia.  

As well as the two enclosed docks Lynn’s capacity as a port was increased around 1990 by the construction of the Riverside Quay. 

 Occasionally the river bed here has to be levelled following silt accumulation and the workboat UKD Sealion was busy with such berth operations.  As late as the 1930s the making of what were called “ship seats” in the Purfleet and alongside the South Quay was undertaken by labourers with shovels.

Associated British Ports (ABP) and the King’s Lynn Conservancy Board (KLCB) work together to ensure port sustainability and security. A priority for much of 2020 has been to implement measures to minimise the impact of COVID-19. 

 This is an essential task for all UK ports which handle 95 per cent of national exports and imports or 500 million tons of freight every year.