By 1912 Southampton was home port to some 23 steamship companies including Royal Mail, Union Castle and American Lines. he transfer of White Star Line's transatlantic express service from Liverpool to Southampton in 1907 had established Southampton as England's premier passenger port. This meant that a new deep water dock was needed to accommodate White Star's largest liner to date, the Olympic. The White Star Dock, later known as Ocean Dock, opened in 1911. It was from here, Berth 44, the Titanic was to leave Southampton in April 1912.
The local economy flourished in 1912 as new shops, restaurants and businesses opened to service the growing port and passenger trade. The town itself was rapidly expanding, with a population of over 119,000 in 1912. Job opportunities in the docks, in shipbuilding and on board ship brought migrants from all over Britain and Ireland to settle in Southampton.
Many of Titanic’s crew (almost 400) lived in the Northam area of Southampton, along with a large proportion of other seafarers and dockworkers. Life was hard for the residents of these dockland communities, with unemployment particularly high due to a national coal strike which had left several ships laid up in dock. The prospect of a job on board Titanic would have brought welcome relief to those crewmen who had managed to sign up for the voyage.