Situated in Table Bay, the Port of Cape Town is the one of the busiest ports in South Africa, second only to Durban as a container port. It is positioned along one of the world’s busiest trade routes and handles the largest amount of fresh fruit.
The history of the port traces its roots back to 6 April 1652 when Jan van Riebeeck of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) established a revictualing station there. Earlier explorers had called it Table Bay from the late 15th century onwards.
The first harbour construction in 1654, when a jetty was built by van Riebeeck – the ships all anchored in the bay, and goods were transferred to and from the shore by smaller vessels. If you have ever visited Table Bay, you will know that it is notorious for violent winter storms, when the wind blows on to a lee shore.
Massive shipping losses were sustained by the Dutch Vereenigde OstIndische Companje, to the extent that eventually Table Bay was closed during the winter months, and ships were ordered to use Simon's Bay in winter.
A vicious storm in 1858, long after the demise of the VOC, saw 30 ships blown ashore and wrecked, with huge loss of life. Lloyd's of London declined all further insurance on ships in Table Bay in winter, resulting in the British Colonial Government starting the construction, in 1860, of the first breakwater. This developed into the Victoria and Alfred Basin, the first safe harbour. There has been extensive expansion since then.
Because of the many tourist attractions offered by Cape Town and its surrounding region, many cruise ships also berth in the port.
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