Port of Gijon
Review and History

The Port of Gijon lies on the shores of the Bay of Biscay in the province of Asturias in northwest Spain. It is Spain’s leading international seaport and an important industrial center. With a long history of human habitation, it was an important city for the Roman Empire.

The modern Port of Gijon (called El Musel) is an important exporter of coal and iron from Asturian mines, and it has a busy fishing industry. Other industries include manufacturing of chemicals, iron, and steel and petroleum refining, food processing, and distilling of liquor. Its beautiful beaches make the Port of Gijon a popular summer resort. In 2007, over 274 thousand people called the Port of Gijon home.

Port History

While people have lived in the area surrounding the Port of Gijon for thousands of years, its documented history dates to the time of the Romans. Early settlements were village forts with defensive walls, moats, and round stone huts. As the Roman Empire expanded, the Port of Gijon was on Rome’s Via de la Plata Route and a part of the empire.

Those early settlements grew and merged to form Santa Catalina, a center for ancient trade. However, the area was attacked frequently, and growth was limited until the 7th Century and the rule of the Visigoths.

Now named Gijon and thoroughly Christian, it remained safe from the Muslims that attacked much of the rest of Spain. The Port of Gijon was a sleepy, little-known town through several centuries, uninvolved in most of Spain’s political life.

In the early 14th Century, the Port of Gijon was the base for rebellion against the Spanish crown and the scene of a fierce battle. The siege lasted many months and at its end, the town was all but destroyed, and many of its residents lost their lives. Again, it disappeared from the annals of history. Spain’s kings and queens took little notice of the town, and other ports received royal permissions for trade and commerce.

In the early 17th Century, Gijon began to emerge as an important city. Fortifications were constructed, and great palaces arose. The city received permission to trade with the New World in the 18th Century, and the city began to grow in both wealth and political status.

The industrial revolution brought large-scale industries that replaced craft-based enterprises. In the latter 19th Century, the city won a railway link to Madrid, and manufacturing industries making a range of products from beer to tobacco were created as the city economy continued to grow. Unfortunately, in its rush to modernity, the Port of Gijon lost many of its ancient and medieval heritage.

The Port of Gijon continued to thrive into the 20th Century until the Spanish Civil War. Aligning itself with the forces of General Franco, the city paid for its actions with material damage and death. Much its population fled the city during that period.

Since Spain’s constitutional monarchy was restored, the Port of Gijon began to recover with heavy industry and iron and steel manufacturing leading the economic way. It has become the leading Spanish port for the transport of coal, and its population has growth to over 250 thousand. The modern Port of Gijon has a diversified economy and busy international trade.

The Port of Gijon’s El Musel was born in the mid-19th Century. Based on the city’s iron and steel industry and the export of coal, its industrial base grew. With awkward road and rail transportation routes, its role as a port became more important. Projects were undertaken to install modern port facilities and to deepen the harbor. In the 1879, the Society of Fomento de Gij’on was formed to construct and operate wharves and docks. In 1888, the first shipyard and drydocks were created. Today, the Port of Gijon has modern facilities that can handle all types of ocean-going traffic and cargoes.

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