Port of Madang
Review and History

The Port of Madang lies near the Gogol River on the northeastern shores of New Guinea Island on Astrolabe Bay off the Bismarck Sea in Papua New Guinea. It is the capital of Madang Province and a center for the large Gogol forest timber industry. The Port of Madang is also the distribution hub for New Guinea’s northern coast and central range. The Port of Madang exports coconuts and copra (dried coconut meat), cocoa, and coffee. The city’s main industries are processing tuna, milling timber, making the locally-popular black twist tobacco, and engineering workshops. In 2004, about 36 thousand people lived in the Port of Madang.

Because the Port of Madang is thought to be safer for foreigners than the larger cities of the Port of Lae and Port Moresby, several large non-government organizations (NGOs) have offices in the Port of Madang. This also means that the city has more expatriates living and working there than other Papua New Guinea towns its size. Both the CUSO from Canada and VSO International from the UK are headquartered in the Port of Madang. Other NGOs with branch offices in the Port of Madang include Save the Children, World Vision, and the World Wildlife Federation.

Port History

The first white man to see the area of the Port of Madang was probably Nicholai Miklukho-Maklai, a Russian biologist who stayed at Astrolabe Bay for 15 months in the 1870s. Before leaving with malaria, he maintained a positive relationship with the locals.

The German New Guinea Company came to the Port of Madang in 1884 hoping to establish a base there. It was called Friedrich-Wilhelmshafen while it was the administrative center for the German colony. However, malaria drove them to Rabaul almost 400 nautical miles to the east on East New Britain Island in 1899. After the Germans left, Australia administered the Port of Madang and surrounding area from 1914 until World War II.

In 1942, the Japanese took the Port of Madang without resistance. During their occupation, the Japanese all but destroyed the town. The Australians started a long campaign to retake the area in 1943, and they captured the Port of Madang in 1944.

Today, the Kalibobo lighthouse standing at the harbor entrance is dedicated to the coast watchers in New Guinea who helped the Allies during the war.

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