The Port of Sevastopol lies on the southwestern Crimean Peninsula on the Akhtiarska Bay in southern Ukraine. Located about 165 nautical miles southeast of the Ukraine's Port of Odessa, it is about 290 nautical miles northeast of the Port of Istanbul across the Black Sea. The Port of Sevastopol is sheltered by its location on the southern shores of long narrow Akhtiarska Bay, an excellent natural harbor. In 2005, over 340 thousand people lived in the Port of Sevastopol.
The Port of Sevastopol was for many years the home to the Soviet Black Sea Fleet, and it is still a Ukrainian naval base used by both the Russian and Ukrainian navies. It is popular tourist destination and seaside resort in the Black Sea region, visited primarily by people from Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries. Since the fall of Soviet Communism, the Port of Sevastopol has been growing as a ship-building and trade center. It is home to Ukraine's biggest power tool manufacturer, Phiolent, and one of the country's most important plastics manufacturers, Stroitel. The Port of Sevastopol is a center for research in marine biology, being the location of a Russian program to use dolphins for undersea military operations.
The Port of Sevastopol is as old as the city itself. Founded in 1783 as a military fortress and base on Russia's southern coast, Grigory Potyomkin founded the city when Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula. Catherine the Great of Russia signed a manifesto in 1794 opening the ports of Sevastopol, Kherson, and Feodosiya to international trade. In 1797, Paul I of Russia renamed the Port of Sevastopol to Akhtiar, a name it held until 1826.
The Port of Sevastopol has been greeting international vessels since that time. In 1804, the Port of Sevastopol was Russia's major military port on the Black Sea. It resumed commercial activity when the military port was abolished in 1867.
In 1854-55, the Crimean War came to the Port of Sevastopol when Turkish, French, British, and Sardinian troops besieged the Port of Sevastopol for 11 months. Russian forces were forced to evacuate the city, and they sank their fleet to assure the enemy could not use the ships. They also used the sunken vessels to block the entrance of the Bay to foreign vessels. By the time the enemy entered the Port of Sevastopol, they found the city in ruins.
The Port of Sevastopol was declared an official commercial port in 1875 when the railway arrived. In 1884, an area of the southern bay called The Tsar Landing Place was designated for the commercial port.
Serious development of the commercial port began in 1880. Routes from the Port of Sevastopol to what was then Constantinople (today's Istanbul) brought diverse cargoes and passengers. By 1894, the Port of Sevastopol employed almost 5500 people, while other businesses employed only 1400 people.
International political pressures at the turn of the century led Russia to strengthen its Black Sea Fleet, and commercial activity became virtually impossible. In 1890, commercial activities were moved to Feodosiya some 145 kilometers to the east of the Port of Sevastopol. In 1905, the Port of Sevastopol was closed to foreign commerce. In 1914, the new port at Feodosiya was completed. World War I and Russia's ensuing Civil War brought complete devastation to the Port of Sevastopol.
In 1921, the Port of Sevastopol was made an independent unit under the Russian Federation's Central Ministry of Sea Transport. Throughout the 1920s, the Port of Sevastopol was an important center for domestic trade for Southern Russia.
During World War II, the military fleet took precedence over cargo and passenger vessels in the Port of Sevastopol. In fact, commercial activities ceased, and the marine terminal was destroyed. Nazi Germany bombarded the Port of Sevastopol from 1941 through 1942, when the Axis powers besieged the city for almost a year before it surrendered. The Germans named the city Theodorichhafen, and they held it until the Red Army arrived in May 1944. A year later, the Port of Sevastopol received the title Hero City.
As the war ended in 1944, the Port of Sevastopol started a steam passenger ferry service, and there were four routes serving the city center by 1950. By 1954, the Soviet Government put the steam ferry passenger operation under the Ministry of the Marine Fleet with the goal of providing transportation for people from the Port of Sevastopol to other domestic military ports. In 1957, the nearby town of Balaklava was incorporated into the Port of Sevastopol.
During the Soviet era, the Port of Sevastopol became a closed city. Non-residents were required to apply for permits to visit the city. The city and the Port of Sevastopol were ruled by the central Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic rather than by the local administration.
In 1962, the port was renamed Sevastopol Sea Trade Port and a new terminal opened in 1968. A new passenger berth was opened in 1970.
In 1992, the Port of Sevastopol was recognized as a public utility enterprise and transferred to the Ukrainian Ministry of Transport. In 1993, Russia's parliament declared the Port of Sevastopol to be a federal Russian city. Since 1993, the Port of Sevastopol has been an active commercial cargo and passenger port.
In 1997, Ukraine and Russia entered into a "Peace and Friendship" treaty that canceled Russia's claims to the country and to the Port of Sevastopol. Today, Russian is still the main language spoken in the Port of Sevastopol. Ukrainian authorities have control of local affairs, while the Russian navy is still based there, and many pro-Russian groups still exist.
The city council is still dominated by Communist interests that resist the city's links to the West and to the Ukrainian government. In 2004, the WE Youth Political Organization pushes for Russian citizenship for residents of the Port of Sevastopol. They reported that almost 75% of the citizens want Crimea to have independent status and support the presence of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, despite the fact that the agreement between Ukraine and Russia expires in 2017. Many citizens believe residents of the Port of Sevastopol should have dual citizenship.