It was no coincidence that Christian IV in 1641 founded Kristiansand exactly where it is located. There had already been established trading activities at sea, and the area where the city was located was strategically and centrally located. In the book called “Kristiansand står og faller med sin havn", the first sentence starts with:

"The connection between city and harbor is so intimate and inseparable in Kristiansand that it can be difficult to decide which should be mentioned first".

After Kristiansand was founded, the city quickly developed into an important trading city in Norway, and port activity was high. In addition, the geographical location became central to the activities that characterize Kristiansand and the development of the harbour. The good port conditions meant that the Danish-Norwegian fleet controlled the Skagerrak, and the sea route between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, from Kristiansand. Furthermore, the city became central to a wide range of functions, whether it was as a quarantine station for the international shipping fleet, repairs of wrecked ships, or the slightly more dramatic history as one of the country's foremost privateering towns. Collectively, this forms the historical backdrop for the harbour, and a city that has always looked outwards with international trade in the centre.

Today, Kristiansand is still characterized by an export-oriented business community with a world-leading process and offshore industry at the forefront. This industry is represented on the global stage by companies such as Glencore, Elkem, National Oilwell and HMH. At the same time, the city still bears the stamp of the merchant culture which lies with most southerners. However, society has changed, and the bustling trade business down on the quayside is today gone and replaced by modern import companies such as Netthandelen, which sell their goods throughout Norway via the internet.

With strong players on both the import and export side, Kristiansand Harbor achieves an approximate directional balance over the quayside, constitutes a significant competitive advantage, and helps to create efficient logistics for the region's business community.

In 2021, Kristiansand harbor IKS was established, following a merger of the ports in Kristiansand and Lindesnes.