There are no perfect natural harbours in the Island. Until 1869 the seat of Government was Castletown, and the harbour there was of some significance. In 1844 a stone breakwater was commenced and extended in 1849. Douglas, at the end of the 17th century consisted of little more than a muddy channel cut by the River, but by 1750 a quay wall had been built in limestone at both the North and South Quays, with markedly tidal berths. Ten years later a short pier was built seaward from the extreme end of North Quay; it lasted until 1787 when it was destroyed by storms. The Tongue, at the top of the Harbour was built about 1791 and for its proper purpose proved singularly useless. It had insufficient depth of water and things were not helped when the Harbour Commissioners promptly rented it off as a timber yard shortly after it had been built. What became known as the Red Pier was built at the recommendation of the British government, with work commencing in 1793 and completed in 1801. The Fort Anne Jetty was built in 1835. These facilities were quite unprotected from full storms and even then the Red Pier was not accessible at all stages of the tide. A harbour breakwater was built in 1864 and the last traces of it were destroyed by winter storms in 1867. In 1867, however, the construction began of the Victoria Pier, opened in 1872 and substantially extended between 1887 and 1891 at a cost of £62,000. The present Battery Pier was commenced in 1873 and completed in 1879. The King Edward VIII Pier (one of the very few public works named after this uncrowned king) was begun in 1929 and completed in 1936 but involved the demolition of the original picturesque old lighthouse on the Red Pier pierhead. In the early 1950s the root of the Victoria Pier was widened considerably, but the total area of water within the harbour extended to over forty acres before the Dept of Highways, Ports Properties and other things filled part of it in to form a vehicle marshalling area on what was originally known as Circus beach. The first Linkpan at Douglas was built for Manx Line Ltd in 1978, destroyed by storms at the end of that year and replaced. A new Breakwater, part of which is known as the Princess Alexandra Pier abutting the old Battery Pier, was opened in 1986. The original (Victoria) Pier Arcade buildings were demolished in 1961.
LAXEY HARBOUR and "Rowe's Pier" was acquired by the IoM Harbour Commissioners in 1890 having been originally developed by the Laxey Mines concern. The whole of the wide promenade at the root of the pier was originally a storage compound for ore, coal and other supplies whilst the building now used as a Pipe Factory originated as a warehouse for the Great Laxey Mines Co. The harbour ceased to be used for commercial purposes in April 1973.
PEEL had been used as a port since antique times with stone quays being built before 1865. Until the completion of the new Breakwater at Douglas, Peel also served as the Island's main relief port in bad weather when Douglas was unapproachable. Peel has always been the Island's main fishing port with associated processing and kippering industries.
PORT ST MARY has a relatively good natural location, and the two limestone piers were built and completed by 1886.
PORT ERIN never developed into a major port, despite the efforts of Governor Loch (see Minor Railways).
RAMSEY Harbour's actual location has altered to follow the mouth of the river. The Harbour entrance is guarded by two moles or breakwaters, the north one dating from 1842 and the south pier, begun as far back as 1790 and completed in 1800, was considerably extended in 1874. Extensive limestone quays line the entire south side of the harbour, and a 3'-0" gauge harbour tramway connected the berths with the Manx Northern Railway station across the road at the top of the harbour. Ramsey harbour is tidal, although regular Steam Packet passenger sailings departed from the South Mole until World War I; larger passenger steamers used the berthing head of the Queen's Pier, built some distance south of the harbour, and opened in July 1886. A 3'-0" gauge tramway unconnected with everything else, ran the length of the pier. The Queen's Pier ceased to provide berthing facilities from 1970 owing to the inability of the Harbour Board to maintain the structure, and the disinterest of the IoM Steam Packet in maintaining the call in view of declining traffic.