The city of Thessaloniki and simultaneously its port, were established in the year 315/6 BC, by King Cassander of Macedon, prominent general of Philip II and Alexander the Great, and it bears the name of his wife Thessalonike of Macedon, paternal sister of Alexander the Great.
The re-location of the main port of the Macedonian Empire from the Pella lagoon to Thessaloniki was necessary for the amelioration of services provided to the increasing import and export needs of the Macedonians, who were the dominant force of the then-known world. The port of Thessaloniki was an important naval center throughout the Macedonian Empire historical period.
During the Roman Empire period, the port of Thessaloniki, located in the center of its eastern area, with the city of Thessaloniki then capital of the Roman Province of Macedonia, emerged as a large, sea-traffic center.
Via Egnatia which was constructed from 146 BC-120 BC, connected Dyrrhachium with Byzantium and it crossed Thessaloniki, while its junctions towards the north (Nis) and south (Athens), which had Thessaloniki as their starting point, gave to the port easy access to a large mainland.
Its strategic location and its connections, rendered the port of Thessaloniki as one of the most important ports of the Roman Empire, with significant traffic, throughout the Empire's duration.
During the Byzantine Empire Period, the port of Thessaloniki developed even more. The Byzantine Emperor Constantine the Great constructed a new port (306 BC-337 BC), square-shaped, outside the walls of the city, to the west of it, which was protected from the southern winds, it had a wave-breaker and it bore a chain at its entrance, which was oriented towards the east.
The new port, due to its installations and the road links of Thessaloniki, which was then the most populated and significant city in the Empire after Constantinople, constituted the main port of the broader area. For the duration of the over 1000 year history of the Byzantine Empire, the port of Thessaloniki was the natural choice for servicing the import, export and transit-trade of the broader area.
During the first decades of the Ottoman Period, following the occupation of Thessaloniki by Sultan Murad II in the year 1430, the city was almost completely deserted. Thessaloniki and its port found its lost glory slowly, after the settlement of Greeks, Turks and Israelites (1470 Ashkenazi Jews from Germany and Hungary, 1492 Sephardic Jews from Spain).
The port of Thessaloniki was linked with regularly scheduled sea-lines with all the known Mediterranean ports and it successfully provided to the needs of its greater mainland, emerging once again as one of the premier ports of the East. In 1870, the coastal wall was demolished and in 1876 the pier of today's old corniche road. In 1871, the railroad line between Thessaloniki and Skopje was constructed and in 1888, it was linked with Belgrade, connecting thus Thessaloniki to the European railroad network. In 1893, the railroad line between Florina and Monastir was constructed and in 1895, the line Thessaloniki – Alexandroupoli – Constantinople.
The modern history of the port commences during the last decade of the 19th century with the expansion of the pier of Thessaloniki towards the sea, with the creation of an eastern section, today's Pier 1.
In 1904, an agreement is signed between Turkey and France, for the construction and exploitation of the new construction works at the port of Thessaloniki. The implementation of the works is undertaken by the newly established French company Société Anonyme Ottomane de Construction et Exploitation du Port de Salonique, with the right to exploit until the year 1944. In a short period of time, the works at Pier 1 are concluded and a quay is constructed between Piers 1 and 2, the eastern quay of the 2nd pier which is part of today's wave-breaker is also constructed as well as a railroad network, water distribution networks, gas lighting and sewage networks and warehouses are built on Pier 1. In addition to the above, the first cranes were procured for the loading/unloading of cargoes on/from the ships.
Up until 1912, the construction of the Customs Office building is concluded, a project that was designed by the Levantine architect Alexandre Vallaury and built by the architect Eli Modiano. On October 26th 1912, the Greek army liberates Thessaloniki and its port. Following the end of the Balkan Wars (1913) and the territorial marking of the boundaries of the Balkan states, the port of Thessaloniki, which was servicing the needs of a wide area of the Balkan peninsula, limited its mainland to the Greek territory (approximately 80km to the north of Thessaloniki).
In order to allow it to continue playing its natural role as a port, which is to service the needs of all the inhabitants of the Balkans, the Greek government established the Free Zone of the port of Thessaloniki in 1914. Its space covers the greater area of the port and a wall from the remaining Free Port, which occupied the 1st pier, separates it. In this area, all the stored, in transit and loaded/unloaded cargoes are circulating without customs' inspection and are exempt from import or other taxes and duties, with the exclusion of loading/unloading and storage rights.
In order to service the Yugoslav transit-trade through the port of Thessaloniki and as a result of the friendly relations between the two countries, the Yugoslav Free Zone of the port of Thessaloniki was established in the year 1923 and it was located in a surrounded-by-wall area of 94,000 square meters and included Pier 2 with a quay that was to provide services to ships, quay 9. The Yugoslav Free Zone was dissolved in 1975 and after the expiry of extensions to the agreement in 1995, any Yugoslav merchandise is moved from the Free Zone of the port of Thessaloniki, without the provision of any special regulations.
During the Second World War, the port of Thessaloniki is found occupied by the German army (1941-1944) and due to its constant bombardment by the British and U.S. Air Forces, in addition to a series of explosions by the Germans during their retreat, almost all the port installations were totally ruined.
Since the end of World War II and up until today, the port of Thessaloniki is constantly expanding westwards, initially with the restoration of its installations and afterwards with the construction of new piers, warehouses, motorways and railway lines, and a simultaneous procurement of mechanical equipment. Immediately after the War in the year 1946, the 3rd pier (Lancashire pier) is constructed. In 1962, the 4th pier (Bescinar pier) and in 1966, the 5th pier was constructed. In 1972, works for the construction of the 6th pier commence, the larger part of which were concluded in 1989, which was the first year of operation of the Cargo Terminal.
During the 1990's, the major part of the project for the deepening – removal of mud and grease waste- embankment of the foundation of the 6th pier is materialized, upgrading the area environmentally and increasing substantially the storage capacity of the port of Thessaloniki. Also, the direct road link with the national road network of the country is constructed, by-passing the city.