The Port of Belfast, first mentioned in 1613 at the incorporation of the borough, was largely controlled by the Chichesters until 1785 when the Corporation for Preserving and Improving the Port and Harbour of Belfast (the Ballast Board) was instituted by Act of Parliament. It comprised 15 members: 3 were honorary and 12 merchants or ship owners selected without period. By a further Act of 1831 the Board was increased to 24: 3 honorary members (Chichesters), the Sovereign of Belfast, MPs for Carrickfergus and Downpatrick and for the counties of Down and Antrim, and the sitting members; 4 were to retire annually. The electoral basis for the Harbour Commissioners was established by the Belfast Harbour Act of 1847 (updated 1883): a restricted franchise mainly based on rateable valuations in the city using plural voting. Commissioners served for 3 years with one-third retiring annually. This electoral process was abolished in 1979 by the Belfast Harbour Acts (Amendment) Order (NI). The Commissioners today oversee the administration of the Belfast Harbour area in particular maintaining control of the allocation and variation of leases.