33
The Ports and their Trade

The Major Ports. Their Physical Setting and The Provision of Facilities

South Africa lacks good natural harbours and her four major ports have been very largely artificially created to serve the needs of expanding commerce. In Cape Town and Port Elizabeth dock basins have been built out into open bays. Durban and East London, respectively situated on a landlocked bay and a river estuary, owe their present facilities to constant dredging.

For more than a century Table Bay was the only important anchorage in South Africa, yet the bay afforded only limited protection before the completion of the modern harbour works. The early sailing ships found the bay difficult to enter during north-westerly gales and unapproachable during a south-easter; the anchorage afforded shelter from a south-easter but was so hard to ride during a north-wester that the ships of the Dutch East India Company used Simons Bay during the winter months. Until the latter part of the nineteenth century ships had to anchor out in the exposed bay while small boats plied between them and the land. In the 1840's Table Bay became known as the bay of wrecks.1

In 1860, however, work began on a breakwater and ten years later the Albert dock was opened. With the advent of steam ships hunkering facilities became necessary and in 1876 a coaling wharf was built. With the increased trade following the discovery of mineral wealth, more dock accommodation became essential; and in 1878, the breakwater was extended and next year work began on an outer harbour. This became known as the Victoria Basin while the old inner harbour became the Alfred Basin (see Fig. 173).

After the first world war the arrival of larger ships and the development of fruit and grain export trades necessitated the provision of special handling facilities (see Table 28) and made extensions to the harbour essential. Between 1924 and 1926 pre-cooling sheds for fruit were built and in 1927 a grain elevator was completed. At the same time the use of oil for bunkering ships necessitated the provision of oil storage facilities, completed in 1925. Meanwhile work went ahead on a new dock basin enclosed by a mole on the south-eastern side of the

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