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...".
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 Saldanhas 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.
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.
development was based mainly on seal hunting until the 1840s 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 1960s Saldanha Bays natural
potential again came to the fore by virtue of the leveling off of our countrys
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
The development of the iron ore export and oil transfer and storage
facilities in the late 1970s 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
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.
there were various government initiatives to promote industrial activities, including
fabrication and training facilities for Mossgas, there was little industrial development
in the 1980s. Most recently, industrial development has included Namakwa
Sands, Saldanha Steel and Duferco Steel Processing (DSP).