The Port of Nikolaev (also known as Mykolayiv) lies at the head of the Buh River estuary in southern Ukraine about 65 kilometers north of the Black Sea. It is about 110 kilometers east-northeast of the Ukraine's Port of Odessa and some 703 nautical miles south-southwest of the Port of Istanbul in Turkey, two other important Black Sea ports. In 2005, over 500 thousand people lived in the Port of Nikolaev.
The Port of Nikolaev is an important river port and one of Ukraine's biggest and busiest ship-building centers, and it supports a variety of consumer goods and cosmetics manufacturers, metallurgy, and engineering industries. It supports three large shipyards, one of which builds large navy vessels.
After the Russian Empire annexed the Black Sea coast in 1788, they founded the Port of Nikolaev as a shipyard near the site of the ancient Greek Olbia. Prince Potomkina Lieutenant Bestuzhev was the first captain of the port. In the early 19th Century, the Port of Nikolaev was a large Jewish center in the Russian Empire. In fact, the seventh leader in the Chabad-Lubavitch dynasty was born here.
Originally built for repair of Russian Navy ships during the Russo-Turkish War, the Port of Nikolaev was opened as a commercial harbor in 1862, and the first foreign shippers were welcomed into the port. This also led to the establishment of several foreign consulates in the Port of Nikolaev.
The railroad came to town in 1873. The Russian military governor renamed the city Nikolay to commemorate a Russia's victory over the Turkish fortress of Achikale (Ochakov). The Port of Nikolaev imported large volumes of iron ore and coal and exported wheat.
In 1875, the Port of Nikolaev handled 11.5 million tons of cargo. Until 1887, most loading and unloading in the port was done by hand, while floating cranes were leased for moving grain. At that time, the Port of Nikolaev had two wooden piers with a total length of 300 meters and depths from 5.4 to 6.6 meters.
Well-planned from its beginnings, the Port of Nikolaev contains wide streets and many beautiful parks. The center city lies on the peninsula formed by the Ingu and Southern Bug rivers estuary.
A military governor administered the Port of Nikolaev until 1900. The port's history is Nikolaev's history: the port's first shipyard is one year older than the city. Russian citizens, including soldiers and craftsmen, were moved there.
Russia's Black Sea navy headquarters were located here for over 100 years until the headquarters were moved to Sevastopol some 350 kilometers to the southeast. The Port of Nikolaev was so important to Russian military operations that it was closed to foreign visitors through the late 1980s.
Cargo traffic grew steadily in the Port of Nikolaev as demands increased for products of Ukraine like wheat, iron, coal, and manganese ore. The Port of Nikolaev was visited by up to 500 ships per year in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.
With that growth came the need to further develop the port. In 1913, the Port of Nikolaev added a new coastal harbor, a granite embankment, the city international embankment, and a mooring jetty. Before World War I began in 1914, the Port of Nikolaev was Russia's third busiest exporting port after St. Petersburg and Odessa. By 1941, the Port of Nikolaev was equipped with 19 modern berths.
Today, the Port of Nikolaev is a large ship-building center and one of Ukraine's most important seaports, serving the vast steppe grain lands and the inland city of Kryvvy Rih. Although the official language is Ukrainian, many residents of the Port of Nikolaev also speak Russian and English.