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Ever since the harbour in Port Elizabeth was first built, it has had a strong connection with the city. The first settlers arrived in Port Elizabeth in the 1820s, and at that time there was scarcely much except untouched beaches and the only human habitation was the Khoi San nomads who lived in the area. Let’s explore the harbour’s history together.

Port Elizabeth Harbour
Coega Industrial Development Zone Image courtesy of Wikipedia – click for link

The North Jetty

The North Jetty was the first jetty constructed in Port Elizabeth harbour, and it served as the main jetty for the harbour from 1870 to 1933. The build was tricky due to lack of resources and manpower as a result of too many workers migrating to work on the Diamond Fields. Eventually, a gang of 130 convicts was brought in to help complete the jetty. With it being the first jetty, one can only imagine the number of changes that had to be made as the job was being done to make sure it would serve the town. A great learning experience indeed! However, in the end, North Jetty was demolished to make way for the new Charl Malan Quay.

Charl Malan Jetty

After the North Jetty was demolished, construction began on the Charl Malan Quay, and it was completed in 1933. The quaint town of Port Elizabeth now had a proper harbour and the economy was starting to grow as the town did. “It was gratifying to note that cargo was now consigned to Port Elizabeth, not Algoa Bay, and official records of freight were also similarly styled,” explained the President of the Port Elizabeth Chamber of Commerce at the chamber’s annual meeting in 1935. This quay is still in use today (No.1 Quay) as the Container and Car Terminals.

The Modern Harbour

Over the years, Port Elizabeth Harbour has continued to grow and develop, and today it is a popular South African multi-cargo port. The port’s main features include a car terminal, a container terminal, a manganese terminal, and a fruit terminal. Its large container terminal has a capacity of 375 000 TEUs and is well-positioned to be able to load railways trains directly under the gantry cranes, which speeds up delivery to destinations that are inland.

What does the future hold for Port Elizabeth harbour? Well, there are plans to develop part of the port for recreational use via a waterfront development, but this remains to be seen. The harbour will always remain a special part of the city.

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