The eighty years leading up to the First World War saw Glasgow Harbour undergo massive expansion. In this time the riverside quays were extended along both the north and south banks of the Clyde as far downstream as the neighbouring burghs of Govan and Partick. By 1914 the quays following the line of the river provided nearly 11 miles (17.6 km) of accommodation for all types of shipping.
To cope with the tonnage and variety of cargo handled four great tidal basins or docks were also constructed. These were Kingston Dock where the Kingston Bridge now stands, Queen's Dock, now the site of the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre, Prince's Dock, now also infilled and being redeveloped, and Rothesay Dock. The last was sited at Clydebank and was built to handle exports of coal from the many local collieries and imports of iron ore for the Lanarkshire steel industry. Also constructed were specialist facilities for handling timber, grain and cattle.
The success of Glasgow Harbour depended upon the deepening, widening and straightening of the navigation channel linking the city to the sea and by 1890 cargo ships with a draught (depth of a loaded ship in water) of 7.5 meters were able to reach Glasgow. Increasing the depth was also vital to the many shipbuilders who had to compete with yards elsewhere in Britain to construct the large transatlantic passenger liners. In May 1914 the four-funnelled Cunard Line steamer Aquitania passed safely down river from Clydebank along a channel nearly 10 metres deep.
The year to June 1914 was the greatest and most important in the history of Glasgow Harbour. The cargo handled exceeded 10 million tons and nearly 7 million tons of shipping sailed to and from the city. By the middle of 1914 Glasgow was firmly established as one of the world's major ports.
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