Fremantle Harbour is
and busiest general cargo port and an important historical
View north-east along Victoria
The inner harbour handles a large volume of sea
containers, vehicle imports
and livestock exports
, cruise shipping
and naval visits, and operates
24 hours a day.
The harbour is also referred to as the Inner
and is managed by Fremantle
, a government
enterprise. The authority also manages the Outer Harbour,
20 km south at Kwinana in Cockburn Sound
which handles bulk cargo ports, grain, petroleum, liquefied
petroleum gas, alumina, mineral sands, fertilisers, sulphur and
other bulk commodities.
Fremantle Ports was previously known
as Fremantle Port Authority
Fremantle's port role began immediately the Swan River Colony was founded in 1829, but
the entrance to the Swan River estuary was blocked by a rocky bar, which made the
mouth of the river virtually impassable for sea-going
The first steamship to enter the port was H.M.S.
Driver on 4 December 4, 1845.
The kilometre long 'Long Jetty' was
the primary port facility until the harbour was opened in
Fremantle shipping was served by the Long Jetty that extended into
the open sea, where Bather's Beach is today. Cargo was offloaded
onto the jetty and then taken down Cliff Street in Fremantle's West
End. It was loaded onto barges
that sailed up
the river on the westerly sea breeze
back to Fremantle on easterly winds. Later it was transported by
disliked the Long Jetty: in 1892
Captain D.B. Shaw of the Saranac described it as "terrible":
"…entered and fought against putting the vessel
alongside jetty to discharge.
It is a terrible place.
No place to put a vessel.
No shelter whatever.
All the ships have to lay and discharge at the wharf or
pay lighterage…It is blowing a gale from the SW…and takes all our
time to hold her….
She had done considerable damage to herself…It is
certainly the worst place I or anyone else ever saw.
No place to send a ship of this size…Any man who would
come or send a ship a second time is a damned ass."
British marine engineer Sir John Coode advised Sir John Forrest
an outer harbour near Rous
Head, or one that would stretch south from Arthur's Head, could be
built. Coode ruled out building a port in the river mouth as he
believed it would continually silt up due to lateral sand drift.In
1887 the Fremantle Chamber of
pushed hard for the southern scheme to be chosen, but
the Colony could not raise the half-million pounds which were
estimated what such an initiative would cost.By 1891 Forrest was
examining another proposal: an offshore facility at Owen Anchorage
south of Fremantle.But by then Charles Yelverton O'Connor
been appointed the Colony's Engineer
-in-Chief, and decided the best option was
an inner harbour built in the mouth of the Swan River.The discovery
in Western Australia meant a working
port was urgently needed, Parliament finally accepted O'Connor's
plan after much political haggling, the capital was raised in
London and preliminary work commenced late in 1892..
The first stage of the harbour works began with a ceremony in which
the Governor's wife, Lady Robinson, tilted the first truck load of
for the North Mole.Blasting and
dredging the rocky bar created a channel, dredging
deepened the river basin, and two moles
were built to protect the harbour entrance. Land was reclaimed so
could be built. The inner harbour was opened on May 4, 1897 when
the steamer Sultan with Lady Forrest at the wheel was the first
ship to enter the partly-built port.
"While the harbour has been deepened, and facilities
extended and modernised over the years, the basic structure of the
Inner Harbour remains essentially unchanged to this day, testament
to the boldness, brilliance and foresight of its
As the port neared completion, Forrest lobbied the British to have
Fremantle as the port of call for the Mail Packets. Victoria and New South Wales fought for the retention of Albany as the Mail Packet port, as they were fearful they
would lose business.
Forrest threatened Western Australia
may stay out of the proposed federation
of Australian colonies unless they agreed.On August 3, 1900,
Forrest won when the Postmaster-General
in London informed the
Post Master-General in Perth that Fremantle would be substituted
for Albany as the port of call for Mail Packets.Ten days later the
Orient Company's RMS Ormuz, homeward bound from Sydney to London,
was the first British mail carrier to enter and berth in Fremantle
In 1901 Fremantle surpassed Albany for the first
time in total tonnage
of ships and the
following year in the number of ships when it cleared 410 ships
(1,045,170 tons) to Albany's 248 ships (540,910 tons).
railway station opened next to the harbour.
During a waterside clash between police
workers on Bloody Sunday, May 4, 1919, lumper
Tom Edwards was struck on the head with a police baton. He died
three days later, leaving a wife and three children. A memorial
fountain by Pietro Porcelli was erected in Edwards' memory that
year, and was moved to Fremantle's Kings Square in 1968.
the Signal Station at Fremantle was moved from Arthur Head to a
site on Cantonment Hill.
This building was replaced in 1956 by a new
structure, whose functions were superseded in 1964 by the opening
of a signal station on the new Port Authority administration
building, which was opened by Premier David
on March 5.
During World War II, the harbour accommodated scores of Allied
naval vessels on active service. Battleships, troop transports,
hospital ships and support vessels, including many passenger ships
, were seconded into the war
effort.Visitors to Fremantle during the conflict
were passenger liners and converted troop carriers RMS Queen Elizabeth and RMS Queen Mary.
Because of their size neither was able to
take up an inner harbour berth, and instead anchored in Gage Roads
. Other well-known ships to visit
included the RMS Strathaird
, RMS Orion
.In 1940 boom defences were installed in the
harbour as a security measure and anti-aircraft installations were
built.After the fall of Singapore in March 1942, many ships sought refuge at
Fremantle: at times 30 were at anchor in Gage Roads.
"In the inner harbour, it was…a common sight to see up
to as many as four vessels of substantial size lying in tier, and
it was due solely to the circumstances forced upon the port and the
prevailing weather conditions that such a state of affairs could be
Altogether, some 75 vessels were using the inner and
outer harbours at one and the same time, and in the fortnight
ending 20th March, a total of 103 vessels, Naval and merchant, and
mainly seeking refuge, arrived at the port.
Until these vessels could be ordered to some other
destination, acute conditions persisted at the port for some
Fremantle Submarine Base
was the largest submarine
base in the
southern hemisphere during World War II. The first United States
in 1942, the US Navy built a submarine repair
facility on North Quay the next year, and until 1945 the port
accommodated more than 170 submarines from the U.S., British and
C. Y. O'Connor statue
O'Connor statue at the entrance to Fremantle Port
honouring C. Y. O'Connor
was erected on Victoria Quay on June
23, 1911. It now stands near the entrance to the Fremantle Ports
administration building in Cliff Street.
The Fremantle Passenger Terminal was constructed in time for the
Empire (Commonwealth) Games in 1962.
Fremantle Wharf Crisis of 1919
- Britton, David. (1987) History of the port The West Australian, 2 May 1987,
p. 35, 36
- Davidson, Dean. (2000) The inner harbour of the port of
Fremantle. (History of the inner harbour through to the
formulation of the current port development plan) Western planner
(West Perth, W.A.) Mar. 2000, p. 10-11,
- Institution of Engineers, Australia. Western Australia
Division. (1989) Construction of Fremantle Harbour, 1892-1901 :
the Institution of Engineers, Australia National Historic
Engineering Landmark nomination submitted by Western Australia
Division, I.E. (Aust.) and Fremantle Port Authority. West Perth,
W.A : The Division. ISBN 0909421242 (pbk.)
- Merrin, Gary. (1997) Centenary port to celebrate. Road
patrol Apr./May 1997, p. 10-12
- Tull, Malcolm. (1997) A community enterprise : the history
of the Port of Fremantle, 1897 to 1997 St John's, Nfld.:
International Maritime Economic History Association. ISBN