Port of Durban
Review and History

The Port of Durban is the third largest city in South Africa and its busiest port. Boasting a warm subtropical climate and beautiful beaches, it is also a major center for tourism in South Africa. Located on the Natal Bay of the Indian Ocean on South Africa's northeastern coast about 165 kilometers southwest of the Port of Richards Bay and almost 1300 kilometers east-northeast of South Africa's Port of Cape Town. In 2007, over 500 thousand people lived in the Port of Durban city, and more than 3.4 million lived in the metropolitan area.

The Port of Durban has a diverse economy with busy sectors in manufacturing, transportation, government, finance, and tourism. Export-related industries are attracted by the port, and tourists are attracted by the mild climate and cultural diversity they find in the Port of Durban. While government is the largest employer in the Port of Durban, manufacturing has been shrinking, leading to increases in the crime rate. The micro-business sector is healthy and growing, but the Port of Durban region has high rates of unemployment. Due to crime and pollution, the Port of Durban's central city has suffered economic decline. Many corporations have relocated to more suburban areas. Despite these setbacks, the Port of Durban is working to revitalize the central city with new leisure and residential developments as well as projects to enhance the waterfront. There is great hope that clean-up efforts in anticipation of the 2010 FIFA World Cup will help turn the local economy around. Still, the Port of Durban is the main economic force in KwaZulu-Natal province, providing over half of the provincial employment, income, and output.

Port History

Carbon dating of rock art in nearby caves suggests that humans arrived in the Port of Durban area over 100 thousand years ago. When Europeans arrived in the area, the pastoral Khoekhoe people lived in the well-watered areas along the southern and western coasts of what would become the Port of Durban. The Dutch setters that became Afrikaners called these people the Hottentot, probably due to the clicks used in their language.

Perhaps more well known are the Zulu peoples that lived in KwaZulu-Natal, the Port of Durban's province. The Zulu Kingdom was instrumental in South Africa's 19th and 20th Century history. Today, their population is about 11 million across South Africa, and Zulus also live in Zimbabwe, Mozambique (Portuguese), and Zambia. Under South Africa's system of apartheid, the Zulu people were third-class citizens, but today they are the largest ethnic group in the country, and they have equal rights with all citizens.

The first written history of the area came from Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama who landed there at the Port of Durban Bay on Christmas 1497 while he searched for a route to India. The modern Port of Durban was first established when a party of British men from Cape Colony settled on the shores of the Bay of Natal in 1824 to establish a trading post. At that time, they planned to build the Port of Durban, as the Bay of Natal (also known as Durban Bay) was a rare natural harbor on southern Africa's east coast.

In 1837, Dutch Voortrekkers (pioneers) arrived in Natal and negotiated a grant of land from Zulu King Dingane to found a Boer Republic. The land stretched over the area of the future Port of Durban to the Tugela River. Dingane was not happy with his decision, though, and he soon had the entire group killed.

After many battles, the Voortrekkers finally defeated the Zulus in the Battle at the Bloodriver in 1838 when ten thousand Zulus attacked a force of 470 Voortrekkers at the Ncome River. By the end of the battle, some three thousand Zulus were dead, and three Voortrekkers were wounded. After the victory, the Voortrekkers (also called Afrikaners) founded their Natalia Republic and claimed the Port of Durban as their own. The British did not agree.

One of the British group that had arrived at the site of the future Port of Durban in 1824, Henry Fynn, befriended Zulu King Shaka who granted Fynn a 40-kilometer long, 160-kilometer wide strip of coast at a depth of one hundred miles. In 1835, 35 white people who lived in Fynn's territory decided to build a town called d'Urban after the governor of Cape Colony. The Fynn family lives in The Port of Durban still.

In 1842, the British sent troops to the Port of Durban, but the Afrikaners defeated their forces. The next year, however, the British overwhelmed the Afrikaners and took the Port of Durban back. The Dutch Voortrekkers moved north, settling in the Orange Free State and the Transvaal. Then in 1844, The Afrikaners accepted annexation by the British when war with the Zulu population forced evacuation of The Port of Durban.

Under the rule of a British governor, immigration to the Port of Durban from Europe and the Cape Colony increased. Establishing a sugar cane industry in the 1860s, the British brought indentured laborers from India to work the plantations, resulting in The Port of Durban becoming the largest Indian community in South Africa.

In 1860, the railroad arrived in the Port of Durban, linking the harbor and the town. By 1890, the rails stretched all the way to Johannesburg almost 500 kilometers inland, and the Port of Durban stretched inland to the cool hills of Berea.

When gold was discovered in the area of the Port of Durban and coal was discovered in Dundee, the Port of Durban grew quickly. Many ships used the port for bunkering. As the traffic in the Port of Durban grew, marine-related industries moved in. Shipbuilders, stevedores, and chandlers established shops in the port, and a dry dock was constructed.

In January 1879 a British force under Lieutenant General Frederick Augustus Thesiger, invaded Zululand without authorization. Thesiger had under him a force of five thousand Europeans and 8200 Africans. Three columns invaded Zululand, from the Lower Tugela, Rorke's Drift, and Utrecht respectively, their objective being Ulundi, the Zulu's royal capital. While one column of the force met with disaster, the war was won, after several battles by the British in March.

The famous Battle of Isandlwana was the first major battle in the Anglo-Zulu War between the Zulu Kingdom and the British Empire. Shortly after the Thesiger invasion began, a force of 20 thousand Zulu warriors armed with cowhide shields and iron spears fought a part of the British main column of less than two thousand. While the British had modern arms and artillery, they were overwhelmed by the Zulus, and more than 1300 British soldiers died. Eventually, the British won the war after this disastrous and humiliating defeat.

Near the end of the 1800s, the sugarcane industry exploded, making the Port of Durban one of the British Empire's most important seaports. It soon was the busiest sugar terminal in the world. By the turn of the century, the Port of Durban had roads and water and sewerage systems. With the railways also expanding, the Port of Durban began to attract people who wanted to vacation there. The port grew as a tourist destination, and it is still an important tourist destination today.

With the end of World War II, the Port of Durban transformed from a typical Victorian town to a modern city. The Port of Durban is South Africa's headquarters for the sugar industry and a center for a diversity of manufacturing.

In 1932, several suburbs were incorporated into the Port of Durban, and it was granted city status in 1935. After World War II, the implementation of and movement against apartheid were the defining historic events for the Port of Durban. Many shack settlements grew up around the region.

In 1950, the Group Areas Act of 1950 restricted the places where racial groups could live and establish businesses. Non-white could not live in developed areas and had to commute very long distances in order to work. In many cases, non-whites were removed by force. In the Port of Durban, the City Council built more formal communities for African workers both north and south of the town. The Group Areas Act was repealed after 41 years in 1991, as was the Natives' Land Act of 1913 that had taken most of the indigenous South Africans' right to own land.

In 1994, the first democratic elections came to South Africa, changing the Port of Durban forever. In 1996, new areas were incorporated into the city, making it the Durban Metropolitan Region (Durban Metro).

The modern Port of Durban is Africa's busiest container port and the 9th busiest in the world. In the 1970s, the Golden Mile was developed to attract tourism, especially from Johannesburg. But in the 1990s, Cape Town became more popular for domestic tourism.

Review and History    Port Commerce    Cruising and Travel    Satellite Map    Contact Information