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Pembroke Dock's role in passenger ferries and merchant shipping began in 1979. From this perspective, it could be seen as one of the newest ports on the Irish Sea.

'Pembroke Dock' is an abbreviation of 'Pembroke Dockyard', the new name given to the location in 1817. The Royal Navy had built the dockyard and adjacent town three years earlier in 1814, initially calling it 'Pater Yard'. The sole purpose of the dockyard was to build ships for the Royal Navy. At the time it was established, it was never intended to be a port for merchant shipping. The dockyard closed in 1926, an event that caused great hardship and a dramatic drop in the town's population. In 1930 the Royal Air Force took over the yard, using it as a base for flying boats and seaplanes.

During the Second World War its aircraft were employed in patrolling the western approaches to Britain, searching for and attacking the ever-present U-boats lying in wait for Atlantic convoy. In 1959 this base closed and again the town fell on hard times. After that the yard was used to build small merchant ships for a time.

1979 saw big changes at the dockyard; a major new terminal was built for the B&I Line ferry company at a cost of €8 million. This was done in conjunction with the Milford Haven Port Authority who manage all shipping movements in the Milford Haven estuary. One of the first vessels to sail from the new port was the luxurious MV Connaught, which had been built in the Verolme dockyard in Cork, Ireland, at a cost of €18 million.

B&I Line had previously operated services between Swansea and Cork. According to a press release issued by Irish Ferries and Milford Haven Port Authority, factors that influenced their move to Pembroke included passenger demand for a shorter sea crossing - the journey between Pembroke Dock and Rosslare took just four hours, compared to 10 hours between Swansea and Cork.

In 1989, the B&I Line was taken over by Irish Ferries. The Isle of Innisfree ferry was introduced in 1997, which was later replaced by the Isle of Inishmore in 2001. Both ferries had first served Holyhead-Dublin. At the time of writing, the Isle of Inishmore continues to run twice daily between Pembroke Dock and Rosslare, carrying both passengers and freight.

From the 1990s onwards, these larger ferries necessitated increased development of Pembroke Dock infrastructure. Irish Ferries and Milford Haven Port Authority reported that this investment was joint funded by both organisations and cost over €14 million.

Cargo capacity was strengthened alongside ferry facilities. A deep water quay was established close to the terminal. It's now known as Pembroke Port. Work at the port includes the transportation of loose and heavy lift cargoes - from animal feed and aggregates to refinery components and renewable energy devices.

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