Located in Ventura County about 40 kilometers south of Santa Barbara and 100 kilometers northwest of Los Angeles, Port Hueneme is a harbor town surrounded by the City of Oxnard. Known for its beach with a wooden fishing pier, it is a popular weekend spot for locals. In 2000, almost 22 thousand people called Port Hueneme home.
Historians believe that the Canalinos Indians, part of the larger Chumash Nation, used the area of Port Hueneme (pronounced Y-Nee-Mee) as a stopping place and departure point for fishing.
After Europeans began to live and work there, farmers looked for a way to transport their goods without using the railroads whose charges they felt unreasonable. Exploring the area, Thomas R. Bard found a 300-meter deep canyon where an underground river would keep a man-made channel free of silt. A 457-meter long wharf was built there in 1872 to move goods to offshore vessels.
In the early 1920s, Ventura County's agriculture began to diversify, with lemons and other citrus crops overtaking the traditional sugar beets and lima beans. In the meantime, Thomas Bard continued to dream of a modern commercial port in Port Hueneme. His son, Richard Bard, brought that dream to reality in the 1930s.
When Bard and local farmers could not secure the necessary financing, they decided to build the harbor. In 1937, they were rewarded with the creation of the Oxnard Harbor District which soon proposed a bond issue that was quickly approved and subscribed. In early 1939, dredging of the channel began, and the harbor was completed in mid-1940.
Port Hueneme began to grow in the 1940s during World War II when it became the home of the US Naval Construction Battalion (Seabee) Center for Pacific Operations. In 1942, the Federal government confiscated the port to make it a naval base, constructing six docks that could service nine ships, over 1500 meters of wharf, 111 thousand square meters of buildings, and almost 58 kilometers of railroad. By the end of World War II, Port Hueneme was handling 150 thousand tons of cargo every month.
After the end of the War, the Oxnard Harbor District secured a lease agreement with the Navy in 1947 for the original Dock 1 and six hectares of the 134 hectares that had existed before the Navy took the property.
In the 1960s, the Oxnard Harbor District moved to purchase the dock and two more acres from its original lands and an additional 14 hectares from the city of Port Hueneme. During that decade, the exploitation of oil deposits in the Santa Barbara Channel began a new era for Port Hueneme, and it continues to be an important base for the offshore oil industry today.
In the 1970s, Port Hueneme pursued a new and unique cargo niche – breakbulk and roll-on/roll-off cargo. When Mazda Motors of North America arrived in 1977, Port Hueneme handled 17.3 thousand automobiles. In the following years, more auto manufacturers and roll-on/roll-off carriers were attracted to Port Hueneme. New port customers included Wilhelmsen Logistics, BMW, Jaguar, Rolls Royce, Volvo, Suzuki, Mitsubishi, Land Rover, and Saab. The port's newest customers include Hyundai and Kia. In the 1990-1991 shipping season, Port Hueneme handled its one-millionth automobile. Only eight years later, it reached the two-million mark for automobiles. Then four years after that, the third-millionth automobile moved through Port Hueneme.
In 1979, Del Monte chose Port Hueneme as their hub on the west coast for distributing produce. In 1994, Port Hueneme built a 13 thousand square meter refrigerated facility for chilled products. In 1995, Port Hueneme added a 2.8 thousand square meter facility for Del Monte (that is almost 8 thousand square meters today). Today, Port Hueneme receives over 600 thousand metric tons of bananas each year as well as pineapples, melons, cantaloupe, mangos, avocados, and fresh-cut flowers.
In 1985, the Oxnard Harbor District bought nine hectares of land from the Navy to expand Wharf 2. By 1988, Wharf 2 was a 442-meter concrete piling wharf with an auto terminal that also handled other heavy cargoes.
In 1992, Port Hueneme received port-of-entry status, beginning a decade of rapid growth. By the 1997-1998 shipping season, the port was handling more than one million tons in general cargo.
The Port of Hueneme began 71 years ago with a mission to provide California's central coast agricultural community with an ocean link to the global market. Located approximately sixty miles northwest of Los Angeles in Ventura County, it became known as "the Port the Farmers Built."
Today, the US Navy operates a facility at Port Hueneme to support the air station at Point Mugu to the south and to the offshore San Nicolas Island which make up the Seabee Center, making Port Hueneme the west coast home of the Seabees. The Naval Base Ventura County is the county's biggest employer, and it is the base of the Port Hueneme economy.
Today, Port Hueneme is one of California's busiest seaports for general cargo. Port Hueneme serves a niche market that includes automobiles and fresh fruit and produce. It is also an important support for the offshore oil industry. Its major trade partners include Japan, Germany, Sweden, Korea, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Ecuador. Generating more than $650 million to the economy of Ventura County every year, Port Hueneme supports 4500 jobs in the area.