Victorian Engineered Screw Dry Dock Located in Bridgetown, Barbados Pocket Guide

The Barbados Screw Dock or Blackwood's Dock

In 1770 the Governor of the island imposed a tonnage duty on all shipping to the island to start raising the funds needed to extend / build a new wharf at the mouth of the Careenage on reclaimed land as there was once a small island in the location of most of the pier head which joined to the land by Mannings Car Park. In 1831 Barbados suffered a devastating hurricane that destroyed a lot of this area which was originally known as the Molehead. Royal Engineers stationed on the island were then put in charge of building a new wharf that today is mostly the area known as the pier head.


Present Screw Dock, Bridgetown, Barbados Pocket GuideThe Victorian engineered screw dry dock located in Bridgetown Barbados is the only dry dock of its kind to exist in the world. The dock construction began in 1889 and was completed in 1893. Boat building  and servicing appears to have been a well established business in Barbados from the early days of settlement. The island had an excellent reputation for the quality of workmanship on marine vessels. These ships could either come into Bridgetown and be careened on a side to have their bottoms cleaned of barnacles or could be lifted by the screw dock out of the water for better repairs. The dock measures 240 feet long by 46 feet wide and was capable of lifting 1,200 tons of dead weight.


Careened ships would come into the inner basin and were emptied of all supplies including ballast rocks. A rope would then be tied to the top of the mast and the ship would be pulled, from the mast, down to expose the bottom of the ship. Cleaning would then begin to the bottom to increase the speed of the ship by removing barnacles and moss that would grow over time.It would then be repaired, caulked and repainted. The ship would then be set back upright and turned around to do the other side.


Ships coming into the screw dock would be guided straight into the dock. Then a process would be started to turn the wheels of the docks and slowly raise the ship completely out of water (as in the picture in our heading). The dock originally worked on steam but was changed to electricity.


In the header picture of this article there is an old building to the right of the dock. This was the customs house of Barbados before there was an airport. Most people travelled by ship in those days and this is where you would go to meet family and friends arriving in the island.


The screw dock today is in a state of disrepair. In the 1980's the Government of Barbados moved the Coast Guard Station into the Pier head and generally the dock was no longer available for use. However after great plans were made to redevelop the whole pier head area to a tourism development it looks like the screw dock may see life again as there are plans to resurrect it to working order. If this happens it would truly be a site to see in Bridgetown. The defense force has moved the Coast Guard to a new location in the deepwater harbour and the area is once again easily accessible to everyone.




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