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Fremantle from commercial port to recreational centre?

Tull, M. (2012) Fremantle from commercial port to recreational centre? In: Arthur, P.L. and Bolton, G., (eds.) Voices from the west end: Stories, people and events that shaped Fremantle. Western Australian Musuem, Perth, Western Australia, pp. 124-147.


The Port of Fremantle was originally established in 1829 to provide the British with a gateway to the western part of the vast Australian continent It has been operating continuously since then as a successful working port, central to Western Australia's economic development. The Inner Harbour is now a treasured part of the historic port city of Fremantle, one of the best-preserved nineteenth-century port cities in the world.

This chapter traces the economic evolution of the Port of Fremantle and casts light on the processes of port renewal and transformation in an age of globalisation. Since its establishment in the nineteenth century, the port has been forced to adjust to major global, national and regional changes in trade, shipping and cargo-handling technology. These changes included, in the nineteenth century, the replacement of sailing ships by steamships; in the first half of the twentieth century, the development of bulk-handling systems for liquid and dry cargoes; and, since the Second World War, the development of large bulk carriers and the mechanisation of general cargo handling. ln the late 1960s containerisation transformed the handling of general cargoes from a manual activity; requiring a large labour force to a capital-intensive one requiring minimal labour, which had immense implications for both the physical and human shape of ports. All these changes have been reflected in varying degrees in the history of the port and the city of Fremantle and, indeed, Western Australia as a whole.

This chapter discusses the major landmarks and issues in the evolution of the port: first, the opening of the Inner Harbour in the late nineteenth century second, early nineteenth-century port development; third, the opening of the Outer Harbour (at Kwinana, 20 kilometres south of Fremantle) in the mid-1950s; fourth, the container revolution of the late 1960s; and finally, the relationship between the port and the historic city in which it has operated continuously since 1829 as an integral part of the life of the city. The chapter considers whether changes in the latter relationship may eventually transform the Inner Harbour from a working port to a recreational centre. In order to better understand the port's development phases it commences with a brief overview of the growth of trade and shipping.

Item Type: Book Chapter
Publisher: Western Australian Musuem
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