Forty years to the day since ferry services first sailed from Portsmouth to France, staff gathered to celebrate the milestone event in the passenger terminal at Portsmouth International Port.
From a standing start on 17 June 1976 the Port has become one of the most important transport hubs in the country, offering the widest choice of sea routes to France, Spain and the Channel Islands. More than two million people now travel to and from Portsmouth every year.
An impressive celebration cake featuring scenes from the Port was the centre piece of this afternoon’s event, which was timed to allow as many operational staff as possible to enjoy the occasion. Former employees also joined the gathering, all reflecting on the dramatic changes seen at Portsmouth International Port since it first opened for business 40 years ago.
The first ferry to sail from Portsmouth in 1976 was Townsend Thoresen’s “Viking Victory”, a ship that had been renamed to reflect its new links with the great waterfront city. She sailed on a new route to Cherbourg. Brittany Ferries “Armorique” was quick to join her, sailing on a new route to St Malo. Brittany Ferries is the only ferry company to have continuously operated from Portsmouth International Port since it opened, and recently celebrated 30 years of its service to Caen.
Roger Pratt, who has worked for Brittany Ferries at Portsmouth International Port since the 1970s, was one of a number of guests invited to take part in a special outside broadcast for BBC Radio Solent. Julian Clegg brought his popular breakfast show to the passenger terminal this morning, the perfect location to highlight how much has changed at Portsmouth, and for ferry travel, since 1976.
Roy Tutt, who helped build the old terminal in 1976, was also interviewed, along with Port Manager Martin Putman, who has helped use careful investment to deliver innovative new services and facilities since he joined the Port in 1988. This morning’s broadcast told the history of the Port, and helped bring listeners a ‘behind the scenes’ look at one of the UK’s busiest ferry ports.
Speaking after cutting the celebration cake, Martin said, “It is delightful to share this happy day with so many staff, celebrating just how much we have achieved at Portsmouth International Port since councillors took the decision to open a new facility in the 1970s. Today’s operation is a far cry from our humble beginnings, but the desire to provide the highest levels of service, now and in the future, remains the same. We look forward to many more decades of success.”
Many people will have been surprised that Portsmouth didn’t have ferries before 1976. Whilst there was a commercial port in almost constant use since Roman times, there had never been the infrastructure for regular ferry operations. Passengers and visitors to the Port this summer can learn more about this important 40th anniversary in a new display on the first floor of the terminal building. Charting the history of the Port, it also features a classic Mini Clubman and ‘model’ family, heading off on holiday in 1970s style.
Portsmouth International Port is owned and operated by Portsmouth City Council. Since first opening, more than £70 million in profits from the Port have been ploughed back into public services. The Port is also an important economic engine for the City and wider region, a crucial source of jobs and income for local businesses.
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