Port of Salvador
Review and History

The Port of Salvador is Brazil’s third largest city and the main port and capital of the State of Bahia in northeastern Brazil. Lying at the tip of a peninsula separating Todos os Santos Bay from the Atlantic Ocean, the Port of Salvador is about 1200 kilometers southwest of Rio de Janeiro. It was the first capital of Portugal’s Brazilian colony, and it is one of the oldest cities in the country. Today, it’s the eighth most populous city in Latin America. In 2005, 2.7 million people lived in the city and 3.4 million called the metropolitan area home.

Port History

Europeans first saw what was to become the Port of Salvador in 1502. In 1549, Portuguese settlers led by Brazil’s first Governor-General, Tome de Sousa, established the new town. It became the seat of Brazil’s first Catholic bishopric in 1552, and by 1583, over 1600 people lived there. At the time of the American Revolution in the late 1700s, the Port of Salvador was bigger than any American city.

Located on a cliff that overlooks the Bay, it soon became an important seaport and a center for the slave trade and the sugar industry. Divided into an upper and lower city by the quick change in altitude, the Port of Salvador’s financial center, market, and port were in the lower city, while the residents, churches, and government buildings were in the upper city. In the late 1800s, the city installed a funicular and an elevator to link the two divisions.

The busy port was a target for pirates and privateers. Dutch soldiers captured it in 1624, but the Portuguese retook the Port of Salvador the next year, holding it until Brazilian independence in 1823. In 1763, the seat of the colonial government was moved to Rio de Janeiro, and the Port of Salvador entered an era of decline that lasted until the 20th Century.

The Port of Salvador was an important base for the independence movement in Brazil. Portuguese troops attacked the city in 1812. The Port of Salvador was an important center for the colonial slave trade. The city still houses Brazil’s biggest concentration of black and mulatto people who have given the city a unique character. In 1835, Muslim slaves from Africa staged a revolt in the Port of Salvador. After independence, the city remained outside Brazil’s industrial development until the 20th Century.

The 1940s brought economic and population growth to the Port of Salvador. By 1948, almost 350 thousand people lived there. When an industrial center and petrochemical complex were built nearby in the early 1970s, the need for a modern port became clear. The first terminal at the Port of Salvador was opened in 1975.

The 1990s brought city clean-up and restoration efforts to the Port of Salvador. The old downtown area, called Pelourinho, was restored to become the city’s cultural center. But these efforts also forced the removal of workers from the city center to its outlying areas and difficult economic hardship. Although the city center is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it remains relatively empty. Local merchants often import events and activity to animate the area.

With its unique African flavor, the Port of Salvador has produced many famous Brazilian musicians, artists, and writers. It is Brazil’s second most popular tourist destination after Rio de Janeiro, and tourism supports the preservation and development of its unique cultural heritage. The city has abundant lodgings for visitors at every economic level.

The Port of Salvador is home to important industries. Ford Motor Company has a plant in the metropolitan area where they assemble Fiestas and EcoSports. In 2001, Monsanto opened its largest plant outside the US to make the raw materials for its popular Roundup.

The coastline at the Port of Salvador is one of Brazil’s longest urban shores, and the beaches there stretch for 50 kilometers. The city’s beaches offer a variety of activities from swimming and surfing to sailing and diving. Reef-encircled beaches are ideal for children and families.

During the colonial era, the Port of Salvador was called the “Port of Brazil,” having served as an important harbor for importing goods from Portugal and Africa and exporting tropical products to Europe. During the 16th and 17th Centuries, the Port of Salvador exported sugar, cotton, leather, brazilwood, tobacco, and alcohol to Portugal. Even when the capital was moved to Rio de Janeiro, Salvador continued to be an important port. During the late 1700s, the port welcomed 100 ships a year.

The modern port began in 1906 when public works projects were initiated. The first modern docks were opened in 1913 and commercial development began. By the next year, new docks and warehouses were operating, and modern equipment was installed. In the early 1900s, the harbor moved about 400 thousand tons of cargo a year. In 1977, the federal government took over management of the Port of Salvador, installing the Companhia das Docas do Estado de Bahia (CODEBA) as port administrator.

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