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 Fri Sea discharging wheat from Hamburg. It sailed to Rotterdam in ballast on February 4.

Over February and March, 35 cargo ships arrived and 37 departed King’s Lynn with 11 and 22 in ballast respectively.  

Today ballast is simply sea water rather than the stone or heavy cargo used in the distant past. In March the dredger Cherry Sand was used to reduce shoals close to the dock entrance.

Timber imported from Scandinavia and the Baltic was particularly marked to indicate an upturn in the construction industry. Four full cargoes were landed by ships from eastern Sweden and Riga in Latvia.  

There were eight part cargoes discharged by vessels which had first called at other east coast ports (six from Hull and two from Seaham).

Three loads of building aggregate were transported to The Wash by ships from Aveiro (Portugal), Randers (Denmark) and Gdansk (Poland). Gdansk (formerly Danzig) was a prominent member of the Hanseatic League in the 15th century when Lynn was one of its main trading partners.

The import of wheat from the German Baltic harbours of Vierow (3) and Mukran (1) continues.  Three of the four shipments were carried by the Eastern Virage for which this is now a regular run.  The same vessel departed Lynn on April 1 in ballast without a fixed destination described as “Sea for Orders”.

Three cargoes of potash fertiliser were landed by ships from Amsterdam for the farmlands of eastern England.  It was once produced from wood ashes in Europe’s forests but most potash today comes from mined potassium salts.

Three shipments of Scottish barley were discharged at Lynn for malting in Norfolk before returning to Buckie (near Aberdeen) for delivery to distilleries. Vessels have been sailing between Lynn and Scotland with a variety of cargoes for centuries, though the coming of the railways from the 1840s much reduced coastal traffic.

Over the two months two cargoes of beans from Lynn’s agricultural hinterland were taken by the Wilson Odra sailing to Floro in western Norway and the Kata to Rotterdam.

Scrap metal was Lynn’s chief export with three loads carried to Klaipeda (Lithuania) on the Baltic east coast. The other three consignments were shipped to Antwerp (Belgium), Amsterdam (Holland) and Aviles on the north coast of Spain.  

Barley exports remain significant and another four ships departed The Wash for Ghent in Belgium (2) and Rotterdam (2) which is Europe’s biggest port. East Anglian barley has a reputation for high quality and is consequently in demand.

The Port Authority responsible for the navigation and pilotage of shipping is the King’s Lynn Conservancy Board (KLCB).  Its staff have recently carried out refurbishment work on the South Quay to provide two more safe berths for fishing boats.  The Wash fishery remains important to Lynn’s identity and local economy.

The council-operated pontoons on the South Quay are currently being used by the crew transfer and high speed diving support craft associated with the Viking Link Interconnector project being undertaken off the Lincolnshire coast. Denmark and the UK will be connected with two buried electricity cables once it is finished.

Up to the 1980s a line between the docks and Lynn station connected the port to the national railway network before freight traffic was lost to road haulage, though the track remains.  

There is currently a campaign to re-open the railway line between Lynn and Hunstanton which could involve the restoration of the railway station at the docks. Associated British Ports (ABP) as owners of the 100-acre dock estate have welcomed a feasibility study to progress the scheme which would benefit their Lynn operations and “allow us to continue to keep Britain trading”.