Due to its morphology, the economic development of the city of Genoa has been inextricably linked to its harbour.
From as far back as the 6th century BC, the early foundations of the town were erected on the hill of Castello, around the original settlement by the promontory of the Old Pier. This layout remained unchanged from Roman times to the Middle Ages. After the year 1000, sea transport regained importance with the rekindling of trade and Genoa developed into the city-port which has been basically preserved until the mid XIX century: a port positioned between the natural harbour of Mandraccio and the old Arsenal, backed by high rocky shores, where the ruling class had already settled their dwellings (Doria Palace, Fassolo villas), where monasteries had been established (Saint Tomas, Saint Benedict monasteries and Saint Theodore chapel) and other public buildings had been erected (Saint Lazarus hospital), and consequently incompatible with potential port expansion.

Only in 1875, after the donation received from the Galliera family, the port commenced an ongoing development process which can be summarized in four phases:
1st phase (1875/1900): the construction of an outer harbour along with Cagni Eastern quay and the lengthening of the existing Nuovo quay; the construction of 12 new wharves, equipped with warehousing facilities, handling equipment and rail links, intended to promote the growing maritime trade fostered by the opening of the Suez Canal; the construction of the first two docks and Magazzini Generali warehousing facility at Fassolo.
2nd phase (1900/1930): the beginning of port expansion westwards, toward Sampierdarena neighbourhood, with the construction of the Lighthouse basin along the extended Galliera quay and the creation of a new quay below the lighthouse.
3rd phase (the '30s): completion of the Sampierdarena basin and construction of further facilities beyond the mouth of the Polcevera river (airport and industrial port).
4th phase (1960-onward): After the long post-war reconstruction, the Capocaccia Masterplan (1994) steered the development of the basin of Prà-Voltri; over the last quarter of the 20th century, new container terminals were built at Calata Sanità and Ponte Nino Ronco , along with the new passenger terminal and other facilities in the dry-docks area and Sampierdarena. Finally, the Gallanti Masterplan (2001) and subsequent projects , featured the Port of Genoa in its present layout, governed by the Western Ligurian Sea Port Authority following the merger between the Port Authorities of Genoa and Savona.

Since ancient times, Savona and Vado Ligure sheltered harbours, already featuring easily accessible road links to the Po Valley, served as natural seaports for the Carthaginian and Roman fleets.
During the Middle Ages, Savona rapidly expanded between the port and the maritime trade centre, while simultaneously, new quays, aimed to accommodate the increasing number of vessels coming from the Mediterranean and North Atlantic, were built out into the sea.

After having survived the dark ages of the 16th and 17th centuries, affected by the maritime rivalry with the Republic of Genoa, the seaport, supported by the House of Savoy, gradually started its expansion, particularly enhancing the role of the city as Piedmont gateway on the Mediterranean basin; new road and rail links (1874) were created, the new Vittorio Emanuele II dock (1884) was inaugurated and a variety of shipyards and installations, supporting the maritime industry, were established.
However, the port has undergone a continuous development since the beginning of the last century.

Across the first decade of the 20th century a futuristic 18-km cableway line was laid down to transport coal from the port to Bragno warehousing facility (beyond the Apennine Mountains), still operating today.
In the immediate post-war the economic development throughout Savona catchment area focused on Vado, where industrial facilities receiving raw materials and energy products from the see were built nearby port quays.

In the second post-war period, the Institutions recognized the port strategic role for the development of the Italian North Western industry and formalized the foundation of a new Savona-Piedmont Local Body, committed to implement Savona port Masterplan, which focused on the development of new infrastructures out into the sea (Alti Fondali project), and, in the late ’70s, took over former FIAT industrial facility starting to outline a preliminary plan aimed to further expand the port (South Landfill project, main quay and North quays).

When the 1994 reform was approved, Savona Port Authority had already accomplished the previously planned operations and started conceiving a new Port Masterplan. The project aimed to streamline the overall layout of the port by concentrating maritime business along Darsena Alti Fondali quay while simultaneously enhancing port-city area (cruise terminal, waterfront urban regeneration). As far as Vado is concerned, the general objectives of the plan envisaged to expand port and logistic infrastructures (Multipurpose platform project), key element for reviving local economy.

The Western Ligurian Sea Port Authority, which replaced the Port Authority of Genoa and the Consorzio Autonomo del Porto di Genova (CAP) in 2017, preserves, in its Historical Archive, documentary heritage which testifies the origin and growth of Genoa port since the mid 19thcentury.

The Historical Archive essentially features three main sections: documentary, cartographic plan and photography.

The oldest heritage preserved in the Archive is a fully comprehensive documentation produced by Genio Civile (projects, reports, architectural drawings, topographic maps etc.), dating back to the second half of the 19th century and illustrating the original port layout after the donation received from Raffaele De Ferrari - Galliera in 1875/76. The CAP archive encompasses different sections (Presidency, Secretariat General, Works Administration, State properties, etc) covering the whole life of the Local Body from 1903 to 1994.

The documentation focusing on the first half of the century features a particularly important issue closely related to the future development and layout of the port. An extremely interesting section is the one giving evidence of post-war destruction along with the subsequent urban reconstruction. The historical archive also preserves, as from 1903, when CAP was established, all formal documents drawn up by the local Body (Assemblies, Committees, Advisory Committees, Decrees, Executive orders, Service Orders, Regulations, Financial Statements, Rates, etc..), besides a variety of publications (Official Journal and future issues) as well as a thorough collection of statistical analysis.
In addition, even all C.L.N.-related documents, drawn up in 1945 and 1946, may be interesting at least from a historical point. This public body managed the port of Genoa until President Carlo Canepa was appointed.

The historical topographic map collection encompasses about 200 topographic and cadastral maps of the port (a database is partially available) since the first decade of the 19th century: a real treasure substantiating the development of Genoa port. Finally, over 20,000 photographs, from the late '800s onwards, complement the comprehensive collection preserved in our Historical Archive.