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 Saldanha History
 Natural Harbour

Saldanha Bay has always been recognised as a “natural” harbour. In the “African Pilot” of 1901 it was stated that ...“Saldanha Bay, from its natural formation is admirably adopted for commercial purposes and for easy ingress of ships requiring to repair damages sustained at sea; indeed, it may be said to be the only safe harbour on this portion of the coast...".

In an edition of “The Engineer in South Africa in 1903, Stafford Ransome already depicted a straight breakwater between Hoedjies Point and Marcus Island, and the prospectus of the Saldanha Bay Harbour and Railway Company Ltd, dated 7 February 1907, Inter AIia, said: “The bay is undoubtedly the finest in South Africa and within its wide area there is room to anchor the whole British fleet in safety”.

Saldanha Bay discovered in 1601

Saldanha Bay was discovered in 1601 by a European Dutch explorer named Van Spilbergen, but takes its name from Antonio de Saldanha. Interestingly enough Saldanha’s potential as a deep sea harbour stayed dormant for a long time due to the lack of fresh water, whilst development took place in Table Bay where water was freely available.

In 1658 Free Burghers from the newly settled Cape Colony established themselves at Saldanha. The primary industries that established themselves in the area at that time were sealing seabird egg collection, whaling, fishing and agriculture.

Industrial development was based mainly on seal hunting until the 1840’s when large scale guano stripping began on Malgas Island and the other islands. A sizeable industry for the harvesting of penguin eggs also developed in the last quarter of the 19th century and whaling flourished for a while. A railway was constructed to Saldanha Bay in 1913, encouraging industrial development, notably phosphate exports and the development of the fishing industry. Historically, the fishing industry has provided most of the employment, especially after the establishment of the deep-sea trawling industry in the 1950s.

Saldanha Bay selected as an export harbour

In the 1960’s Saldanha Bay’s natural potential again came to the fore by virtue of the leveling off of our country’s gold assets and the economic value of deposits of approximately 4 000 million tons of high grade iron ore in the vicinity of Sishen and Postmansberg. Feasibility studies for a comprehensive iron ore export project were started in 1969. These studies led to Saldanha Bay being selected as an export harbour. Construction of the harbour commenced in May 1973, and the first iron ore was loaded in September 1976.

The development of the iron ore export and oil transfer and storage facilities in the late 1970’s brought a limited amount of development. The construction of a general cargo quay in the harbour allowed for other cargo handling, including exports of lead, zinc and copper concentrates since 1980. The completion of the Sishen-Saldanha line provided a major upgrade from the original railway line and included the construction of marshalling yards inland of the harbour by Transnet

After the completion of the iron ore export facilities development again largely stagnated except for Mariculture industries which established themselves in the Saldanha Bay area. In contrast, Vredenburg has continued to develop steadily because most of its income is derived from agriculture and from the farming community.

Although there were various government initiatives to promote industrial activities, including fabrication and training facilities for Mossgas, there was little industrial development in the 1980’s. Most recently, industrial development has included Namakwa Sands, Saldanha Steel and Duferco Steel Processing (DSP).


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 J.C. Laubscher
 Tel: +27 (0) 22 714 2629
 Cell: +27 (0) 83 609 1449
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 Sound of Jura Street 45
 South Africa
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 P.O. Box 145
 Saldanha ZA 7395
 South Africa
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