History of Port of Albany
Since the founding of Albany in 1624 as a trading post shipping has been important to its growth and prosperity. Furs (especially beaver), timber, and farm produce were important exports while European people and goods were shipped in. The Dongan Charter, which established Albany as a city, made Albany the exclusive market town in the upper Hudson River Valley. From its beginning, the port consisted of hastily built docks built every spring and destroyed every winter by erosion, flooding, ice, and tidal action. Three city-owned docks were established in 1766 the northern and southern ones later being expanded into wharves.
Many historically significant ships used Albany as their home port. The Experiment left Albany in 1785 to become the second American ship to sail to China. In 1809 Robert Fulton's Clermont became the first commercially viable steamboat when it left Albany and sailed down the Hudson to the city of New York. In 1825 a 4,300-foot long and 80-foot wide pier was constructed 250 feet from, and perpendicular to, Albany's shoreline Along with two bridges the pier enclosed roughly 32 acres of the Hudson River as the Albany Basin. The construction of the pier and bridges cost $119,980. The basin was located where the Erie Canal, constructed between 1818 and 1825, met the Hudson River. The basin could accommodate 1,000 canal boats and 50 steamboat moorings. Along the Erie Canal within the city's North Albany neighborhood private wharves and slips were constructed for use in the lumber trade, this soon became the large and prosperous Albany Lumber District of national importance. In 1860 Albany, along with nearby Watervliet and Troy, was the largest lumber market in the state. The Maiden Lane Bridge was constructed in 1871 over the basin to connect Albany with the east side of the river, it was open to railroad traffic only.
The Albany Port District was established in 1925 under New York law Chapter 192. This was only four years after the interstate compact that created the Port of New York Authority (later renamed the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey). In 1932 Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt unveiled a modern port to replace the aging infrastructure of the Albany Basin and the lumber district along the Erie Canal in the North Albany neighborhood. The port was constructed on around 200 cres on Westerlo Island in the southern end of Albany along with approximately 34 acres across the river in the city of Rensselaer. The grain elevator at the port, built during the original construction in 1932, was the largest in the world and as of 2008 is still considered to be the largest in the United States east of the Mississippi River. The area of Albany's original port (the Albany Basin) has been covered by Interstate 787 and the Corning Preserve (Riverfront Park) since the very early 1970s. In 1979 remnants of the basin wall were excavated from the preserve's lagoon by Phillip Lord working for the New York State Museum.
On December 9, 2003, the Stellamare, a Dutch-owned ship, capsized at the port, killing three Russian crewmembers. The ship was hauling General Electric generators when it overturned. The United States Coast Guard determined that poor communication resulting from the supervisors speaking Dutch while the crew spoke Russian, with English being used as a relay, was a contributing factor to mismanagement of ballast tanks. In 2008 the port received two awards from the Railway Industrial Clearance Association. One award was for customer satisfaction and the other for being the most improved port in the United States for handling heavy lift cargo.