Completed alongside the Kings Dock in 1909, what would later become known as Queens Dock was initially used both as a timber float, and for the accommodation of laid-up vessels and ships waiting to load or discharge at the Kings Dock or Prince of Wales Dock wharves. It was not until 1919, when the Anglo Persian Oil Company began the construction of the UK’s very first oil refinery at nearby Skewen, that the future of the Queens Dock as a major oil terminal was consolidated. Somewhat belatedly, perhaps, the Queens Dock was officially named by King George V and Queen Mary on the 19th July 1920.
The Llandarcy Refinery was completed in 1921, and was named in honour of Sir William Knox D’Arcy (1849-1917), a co-founder of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company who had discovered oil in the Iranian desert some ten years earlier. The refinery was linked directly by pipeline to the Queens Dock which, at its peak, handled up to 2,000 tankers a year, discharging millions of tons of crude oil from the Middle East and loading similarly vast quantities of petroleum and other refined oil products for other parts of the UK, and for destinations such as Africa, Europe and Scandinavia.
Oil traffic through Swansea Docks peaked in the 1950’s at around eight million tons per annum, but fell into sharp decline with the opening in 1961 of a pipeline connection between Llandarcy Refinery and the new Angle Bay oil terminal at Milford Haven. However, the early 1970’s saw the completion of BP Chemicals’ plant at Baglan Bay which again, being linked by pipeline to the Queens Dock, augmented the port’s tanker traffic over the next few decades with high-level imports and exports of liquid petro-chemicals.
Now, after more than 70 years in operation, the Llandarcy oil refinery has disappeared, as has the petro-chemical plant at Baglan Bay and, sadly, there are no more tankers to be seen in the Queens Dock. What does the future hold? Who knows, but I do recall a former Chief Executive of the City Council saying, many years ago, that it would make a wonderful marina!