Port of Maputo
Review and History

Lying on the far southern shores of the Indian Ocean in Mozambique about 750 kilometers south of the Port of Beira, the Port of Maputo is the country’s capital and largest city. The Port of Maputo was called Lourenzo Marques until 1976, getting its name from the Portuguese explorer who came to the region in 1544. The Port of Maputo has a wonderful temperate climate, thanks to generous sea breezes.

One of East Africa’s most important ports, the Port of Maputo handled trade from South Africa, Rhodesia, and Swaziland before Mozambique’s independence. When the Rhodesian frontier was closed and relations with South Africa deteriorated, the Port of Maputo declined. The local economy is based on industries that include shipbuilding and repair, canning of fish, breweries, iron works as well as cement, textiles, and other manufacturers. In 2006, over 1.2 million people lived in the Port of Maputo. 

Port History

Portuguese navigator Lourenzo Marques was sent to explore the Delagao Bay by the territory’s governor in 1544. He found a potential site for a port there. Naming the settlement after Marques, the Portuguese soon built forts and trading stations on the river’s north bank and abandoning them to escape the indigenous peoples who destroyed the settlement.

Today’s Port of Maputo was established in 1850, rising around a 1787 Portuguese fortress. By 1871, it was a poor town with decaying forts, rusty armaments, and a lot of grass huts protected by a two-meter wall with a few bastions.

As the Transvaal in South Africa grew in importance, the Portuguese began to focus more attention on the Port of Maputo. In 1876, they sent a commission to drain the marshes near the town to plant blue gum trees and build a church and a hospital. By 1887, the Port of Maputo was a city, and it became the capital of Mozambique, replacing the Island of Mozambique in that role. When the railroad to Pretoria arrived in 1895, the city began to grow rapidly.

By the early 20th Century, the Port of Maputo was well-established with ample facilities and equipment so that large vessels could move cargo directly to rail transport. Under Portuguese rule, the town became a cosmopolitan city, and the port served Portuguese, British, and German ships bringing goods from Lisbon, Southampton, and Hamburg.

The Port of Maputo and the city’s economy continued to grow based on the busy seaport, and Portugal started building a regional network of schools and colleges in the 1940s. While unskilled Africans did not share in the boom, considerable communities of Portuguese, Indian, Chinese, and Islamic communities prospered with the Port of Maputo’s growth. Before Mozambique gained independence in 1975, the Port of Maputo was a popular tourist destination for travelers from Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and South Africa who were drawn to its beaches and world-class restaurants and hotels.

In 1962, the Mozambique Liberation Front formed in Tanzania, beginning the 10-year Mozambican War of Independence. When Portugal’s Estado Novo regime was overthrown in Lisbon, the war for Mozambique’s independence finally ended, as the new leftist military regime in Portugal granted independence to all Portuguese-held territories overseas.

In 1975, the People’s Republic of Mozambique was announced, and the city’s name became Maputo. Portuguese soldiers in the Port of Maputo were replaced with black soldiers with rifles from Russia. Almost overnight, a quarter of a million ethnic Portuguese left the country, and Mozambique was left in chaos. With few skilled workers to maintain the country’s infrastructure, the economy spiraled. By the 1980s, Mozambique was bankrupt.

From the early 1980s until 1992, the country was plagued by civil war. Since the war ended, stability and growth have returned to the Port of Maputo, but it continues to struggle to live up to its potential. The city suffers crime, poverty, unemployment, and overpopulation.

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