Local people will tell you that Drammen was created by the river, and there’s little doubt that Drammen’s location has made it a natural harbour for many centuries. The Vikings used the Drammensfjord nearly a thousand years ago to bring in the plunder from their foreign raids. The sagas written by Snorre Sturlasson describe how the they sailed their longships up the fjord Drofn, as it was called at that time.
It was not until the 14th century that a permanent settlement was established on the estuary of the Drammen river, simultaneously as the harbour developed into a proper commercial centre. It was considered an ideal harbour for the export of timber, which was floated down the river and loaded into ships at Tangen.
The Drammensfjord became Norway’s principal gateway for timber exports, and by the middle of the 17th century it was exporting twice as much cargo as Christiania (the former name for Oslo) and the same amount as all the other Oslo Fjord ports put together. Shipping traffic was at an all time high.
Towards the end of the 18th century paper and pulpmills began to spring up on both sides of the river, generating a whole new export trade.
Drammen acquired other industries, including a glass factory, an iron foundary and a brewery. The first two disappeared many years ago, but the Aass Bryggeri (Aass Brewery), founded in 1834, continues to flourish and has the distinction of being Norway’s oldest brewery.
Drammen has been an important railway junction for many years, giving the port a vital transport link with its hinterland. The Randsfjord line was opened in 1868 and Drammen was connected to Oslo in ¨¨1870. The bridges which take the railway across the river are the longest railway bridges in Norway.
The Port of Drammen is an old port with a modern outlook. The Port Authority is a non-profit making harbour authority which was established as long ago as 1735 to administer the Port of Drammen.
Over the past 100 years the port and town have changed. Most of the papermills closed at the end of the 1960`s and Drammen has gained new types of business, such as electronics, food-processing, printing, road-transport and the service-sector. In the port, the emphasis has moved from exports to imports - containerized cargo and new cars.
The layout of the port has changed too, with much of the new cargo-handling activity being focused on the island of Holmen, where deepwater berthing is available. It is a curious fact that, since the last Ice Age, the island has been rising by 4 mm per year, so that what was little more than a few bumps in the estuary back in the 15th century had become a substantial island in the 20th century. In modern times Holmen has been expanded still further by means of reclamation in order to create a perfect terminal for handling large vessels and all types of goods.