History - Port of Oslo

View over Oslo Harbor, 1929. Photo: Anders Beer Wilse
Port of Oslo is one of Norway's oldest enterprises. Strategically located at the heart of Oslo Fjord, the harbor is a primary portal to Norway’s capital and the hub around which Oslo was built.

As early as 1735, Norway first established laws regulating operation of the port. Duties were set to ensure the harbor had sufficient depth, mooring facilities and funding to monitor the waterways. In 1842, a new law came into force, making the port a municipal business, but with its own finances, and under the authority of the national government.

The Harbor – A Portal to the World

Port of Oslo has always been a gateway connecting the world to the city of Oslo and Norway. It plays a significant role facilitating transport of cargo and people to and from Norway. It is also a strategic transportation hub connecting the eastern region of Norway to the global marketplace.

There has been significant transformation since the port first served sail and steamships ships to today’s motorized transport. Transshipment has evolved from manual labor supported by intricate technical systems to container handling with cranes, loading and unloading with forklifts, and container mounting and moving devices.

Bjørvika – The Heart of Harbor & City

Bjørvika is the oldest known port in Oslo. The first settlement was located on the east side of the fjord, below Ekebergåsen. After a fire in 1624 that reduced much of Oslo to ashes, the town was rebuilt on Akersneset, under the protection a fortress.

New port facilities fronted by wooden row houses, similar to other major cities in Norway at the time, were constructed on the west side of Bjørvika.

From a single port facility below Ekebergåsen, the port  expanded to occupy much of Oslo’s central seafront.

In the 17th century, imported goods such as grain, corn, salt, sugar, iron, lead and coal moved through the harbor. Departing ships carried lumber, an export that fueled Oslo’s prosperity. Along Akerselva (Akers River), sawmills and other industries flourished throughout the 18th century, increasing the amount of commercial property around Bjørvika.

Christiania- Norway's most important maritime city

During the era of sail ships there was no need for extensive port facilities. When the first Norwegian steamship berthed at Christiana in 1827, it ushered in a new era. Steamships required solid quays and more efficient loading and unloading. Large wharf cranes became a common feature of the harbor.

The city's merchant fleet increased rapidly toward the end of the 19th century, and by the turn of the century, Christiania was the country's most important maritime city - a primary hub for import and export of goods.

Pipervika grew in importance as a port area in 19th century. The construction of the West Railway and Station in 1872 made this area more central than Bjørvika.

Strong urban growth in the latter half of the 19th century and the rapid introduction of new technology led the municipality of Oslo in 1897 to announce an international competition for development of the harbor. In a few years, from 1898 to 1911, the area around Akershus Fortress was completely transformed. Roads, railways and a quay replaced steep natural terrain, bastions and public sea baths.

With the exception of two shipyards - Nyland East and Nyland West (formerly Aker's Mechanical Workshop) - the port occupied a contiguous area from Hjortenskaia to Ormsundkaia.

Fjordbyen - Fjord City

This former industrial harbor surrounded by railways and roads was isolated from the city, and blocked public access to the waterfront.

In 2000, Oslo City Council adopted the Fjordbyen Plan (Fjord City). This plan is the initial phase that will see large portions of the former port area transformed for urban development. All cargo handling, except goods carried by passenger ferries, will be relocated to Sydhavna (South Harbor).

(Source: Maritime Cultural Heritage Plan for the Port of Oslo 2011. History of the Port of Oslo for the period up to 1954, Yngve Kjelstrup)