Port of Trieste
Review and History

The Port of Trieste lies on the shores of the Gulf of Trieste on the Adriatic Sea in northeast Italy just 4.4 kilometers from the border with Slovenia and 145 kilometers east of the Port of Venice. The Port of Trieste is located at the crossroads of many cultures: Latin, Germanic, and Slavic. It is the capital of the Province of Trieste and the Friuli-Venezia Giulia autonomous region. In 2007, over 208 thousand people lived in the Port of Trieste.

Its economy is largely dependent on the Port of Trieste. Its status as a Free Port is a long tradition. First granted by the Habsburgs in 1719, the Free Port status has been reconfirmed many times by the European community and the Italian Parliament. Because most of the port’s land is subject to the Free Port rule, it is outside the jurisdiction of European Union Customs. There are five Free Port Zones: Old Free Zone (Porto Vecchio), New Free Zone (Porto Nuovo), Timber Terminal Free Zone, Mineral Oil Free Zone, and the Industrial Free Zone (Canale di Zaule).

Port History

In 177 BC, the Port of Trieste was under Roman rule. Made a colony by Julius Caesar, its name was Tergeste. In 33 BC, Augustus Caesar ordered the building of a harbor and city walls. After Rome fell, the Port of Trieste was given independence in 948 AD by King Lothar II of Italy.

Venetians captured the Port of Trieste in 1202, although it continued to push for autonomy. In 1382, the Port of Trieste placed itself under the protection of Leopold III (of Habsburg). This overlordship eventually made the Port of Trieste an Austrian possession.

In 1719, Charles VI (Holy Roman Emperor) proclaimed the Port of Trieste to be an Imperial Free Port when about 5700 people lived there. By 1891 when it lost that status, 156 thousand people lived in the Port of Trieste. Between the early 18th and middle 19th Centuries, the Port of Trieste was a giant market. When Charles VI died and Empress Maria Theresa of Austria took the throne, she extended the borders of the Free Port area, merging the market, the port, and the new and old cities.

Empress Maria Theresa extended exemptions for customs duties for all of the Port of Trieste, bringing many new residents to the Port of Trieste from Italy, Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia, and Greece and including many Jews. A law was passed granting freedom of religion, ownership of property, and the right to negotiate. By the middle 1800s, it became necessary to expand the Port of Trieste’s infrastructure and the local rail network.  

In 1857, the Southern (Sűdbahn) Railway began operations, linking the Port of Trieste with Vienna, Budapest, and many other Eastern European cities. The railway was critical to the design of the port. In 1868, the commercial Port of Trieste began to develop.

The Porto Vecchio is the Port of Trieste’s oldest area. It was a trade center for lands under Austro-Hungarian rule. Presently, it is a major part of the Port of Trieste’s cultural heritage. A huge project is underway to revitalize the old port, and a new multi-purpose terminal has been added to the older facilities.

With the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 and competition from northern ports, construction of the Old Port (Porto Vecchio) was begun. In the northern area of today’s port, sea infrastructures and the outer breakwater were built between 1863 and 1883. In 1871, a new monthly service with Mumbai started operating. A contract with the railway to develop the port resulted in the 1979 opening of the warehouses, and railway connections to were added to Munich, Salzburg, and several other cities.

The Port of Trieste was separated from the rest of the Port of Trieste by an enclosure, and it became a free port in 1891. This removed the Port of Trieste from the Free Port Zone. In the early 20th Century, work began to expand the Rive area and to add the Bersaglieri Wharf, the timber pier, and Piers V and VI.

Building of the Porto Nuovo began in the early 20th Century to meet increasing demands for trade with the Middle and Far East when the Suez Canal opened. The sea infrastructures were completed, equipment was added to piers V and VI, and new buildings appeared (the silo, Stazione Marittima (passenger station), and the Idroscalo (air harbor). Most of the work was completed by the 1930s, but a container terminal and a roll-on/roll-off and ferry terminal were added in the 1960s.

During World War II, several buildings were damaged by bombing. Following the War, the port reorganized and established facilities to accommodate containerized traffic and modern vessels. Modern additions have included the new Free Zones for timber, oil, and industry.

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