From a commanding position on Victoria Quay, the life-size bronze statue of Charles Yelverton O'Connor maintains a constant vigil over his first major engineering achievement in Western Australia - Fremantle Harbour.
Fremantle's role as a port began with the foundation of the Swan River Colony in 1829. It was named after Captain Charles Fremantle, captain of the HMS Challenger.At this time, a rocky bar blocked the entrance to the estuary. This made the mouth of the river virtually impassable for sea-going vessels. As the colony grew, the need for a protected anchorage became more urgent. The gold discoveries of the 1890s brought people and prosperity to Western Australia and in 1891, Western Australia's first Premier, Sir John Forrest appointed Irish born engineer, Charles Yelverton O'Connor as Engineer-in Chief.
Work on O'Connor's scheme for the development of a safe harbour at Fremantle began the following year. The project involved blasting and dredging of the rocky bar to create a channel, dredging to deepen the river basin, and construction of two moles to protect the entrance to the harbour. The scheme also involved land reclamation to allow for the construction of quays and warehouses. The Inner Harbour, located at the mouth of the Swan River, was opened on 4th May 1897.
While the harbour has been deepened, and facilities extended and modernised over the years, the basic structure of the Inner Harbour remains essentially unchanged to this day, testament to the boldness, brilliance and foresight of its designer.
The Inner Harbour provides modern deep-water facilities for handling container trade, break-bulk vessels, livestock exports and motor vehicle imports. It also accommodates cruise ships and visiting naval vessels.
The Outer Harbour, 20 kilometres further south on the shores of Cockburn Sound was opened on 11 January 1955. It is one of Australia's major bulk cargo ports, handling grain, petroleum, liquid petroleum gas, alumina, mineral sands, fertilisers, sulphur and other bulk commodities. Fremantle Ports operates the Kwinana Bulk Jetty and Kwinana Bulk Terminal at Kwinana. Alcoa, BP and Co-operative Bulk Handling also operate cargo-handling facilities in the Outer Harbour. The Inner and Outer Harbours are linked by rail to the interstate and intrastate rail networks.
As well as contributing to Western Australia's economic life Fremantle played a vital wartime role. During World War II, the harbour and its facilities accommodated scores of Australian and Allied naval vessels on active services. Battleships, troop transports, hospital ships and support vessels, including many passenger ships, were seconded into the war effort. Fremantle also had a major role as the largest submarine base in the Southern Hemisphere during World War II.
Fremantle has long been a destination for passenger ships and the era of the great liners is one that holds fond memories for Western Australia. It was the first port of call for passenger ships carrying post war immigrants, many of whom chose to stay in Western Australia.
Fremantle is very often a first and last port of call for shipping operating between Australia and overseas destinations, making Fremantle a strategic port for trans-shipment of cargoes as well as direct services.
Fremantle Port Authority