The Port of Beira lies on the northern shores of the Mozambique Channel off the Indian Ocean at the mouth of the Pungoe River in Sofala Province. Centrally located on Mozambique’s eastern shores, the Port of Beira is an important trade and transportation center for Central African products and coastal goods. Railways from Zimbabwe, Congo, Zambia, and Malawi end in the Port of Beira, and it serves as the main port for those inland nations.
The second biggest city in Mozambique, the Port of Beira exports products like tobacco, foods, ores, cotton, and skins and hides. It imports fertilizers, wheat, fuels, textiles, heavy equipment, and beverages. The fishing harbor, built in the early 1980s, contains processing plants, canneries, and chilled storage. In 1997, over 412 thousand people lived in the Port of Beira, and it was home to 546 thousand by 2006.
The Port of Beira was created by the Portuguese in 1890 on the site of a former Muslim settlement. Paive de Andrade, a Portuguese explorer, identified the site as a possible port, and the Portuguese moved quickly to gain an advantage over the British in dominating East Africa (who were settling Rhodesia).
De Andrade’s report led to a survey of the river and, in 1887, the construction of a Portuguese military post that was the base for the future settlement. Portuguese families settled the new town, and they built a railway to Rhodesia which further stimulated growth of both the settlement and the port.
By 1889, the channel entrance was marked by buoys. In 1895, construction began on port facilities, including a wooden pier that served the coming railroad. The railway arrived in 1898, quickly becoming a gateway for Rhodesia and Nyasaland (now Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Malawi).
Called Chiveve at first, it was renamed for the 1907 visit of Portuguese prince Dom Luis Filipe, Prince of Beira, who was the first royal to visit the country. In that year, the Portuguese recognized the Port of Beira as a city.
Administered by the Portuguese Companhia do Macambique from 1891, the Portuguese government took over the city in 1942. Construction of the deep-water berths and better anchorage began in the 1920s under the control of the Companhia do Porto de Beira. As a Portuguese city, the Port of Beira was well-known for its outstanding port. It was a major East African facility that was a leader in trade, fishing, and tourism. A thriving cosmopolitan port with a diverse ethnic mix of indigenous Africans, Portuguese, Indians, and Chinese), it gained a large English-speaking subpopulation when white Rhodesians began to favor it for holiday vacations.
In 1949, the Macambique Ports & Railways Company (CFM), a public company, took administrative control of the Port of Beira. In 1998, CFM entered into a joint partnership with Rotterdam-based Cornelder Holdings for management of the Port of Beira container and general cargo terminals. The new company, Cornelder de Mocambique (CdM) is today an important partner in the region’s economic development. They have further entered a joint venture with GMS Freight out of Zimbabwe to develop an inland container terminal and dry port facilities. In the 1960s, the Port of Beira was linked with Zimbabwe by pipeline.
By the beginning of the 1970s, almost 114 thousand people lived in the Port of Beira. After independence in 1975, many ethnic Portuguese left the Port of Beira. From 1977 until the early 1990s, the country was torn by a civil war that led to almost complete chaos. Plagued by famine, poverty, and disease, the country collapsed. The Port of Beira’s famous Grande Hotel was taken over by about a thousand homeless people, and by the time the war ended, it was in ruins.
The Mozambique flood of 2000 devastated the Port of Beira region, and millions were left homeless. The local economy was in a shambles. While the Port of Beira has great potential as a tourist destination, it is hard put to invest in the industry.