Port Kembla - Early History

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#4 Jetty from Signal Station 1940's

The earliest written record of the area known today as Port Kembla was in April 1770, during Captain James Cook's voyage of discovery up Australia's east coast on the Endeavour. His logbook recorded 'There lies a point which I called Red Point, and a little way inland stands a round hill, the top of which looks like the crown of a hat'. The hill Captain Cook noted was for quite some time referred to as Hat Hill but today is better known as Mount Kembla. Red Point, however, has retained its original name.

Later came explorers George Bass and Matthew Flinders visited the area in their boat 'Tom Thumb'. The lagoon near Red Point was named Tom Thumb Lagoon, after the explorers' vessel, and is now the site of Port Kembla's Inner Harbour.

In 1883 the Mount Kembla Coal and Oil Company built a railway from Mount Kembla mine to the coast to ship its coal. There was no natural harbour and the company constructed a jetty just north of Red Point naming it Port Kembla.

By the 1890's Port Kembla jetty was exporting significant amounts of coal and a plan for a deepwater port evolved. This plan ultimately required the construction of the two large breakwaters which form the Outer Harbour as we know it today. The Port Kembla Harbour Act was passed on 23 December 1898, thereby formally proclaiming the area as a port and setting aside an initial 200,000 for breakwater construction.

With the event of the Hoskins Steelworks in the late 1920's the growth of Port Kembla harbour was assured.

Infrastructure investments saw the addition of many jetties around the port including several coal loading jetties which were closely followed by No.4 & No. 6 Jetty which were constructed to service the needs of ER&S, BHP and the growing demand for larger vessels. The 1970's bought another round of construction with the addition of the Products Berths and deepening of the Inner Harbour.

Today the port boasts many facilities and berths including the Coal Terminal, Grain Terminal, Bulk Liquids Berth, Oil Berth, Eastern Basin No.4, various Products Berths, Multi-Purpose Berth as well as No.4, No.3 and No.6 Jetties.

Click here to see an aerial photo of the harbour.

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