History and Development of the Port

The Port's history dates from 1792 when French explorer D'Entrecasteaux explored the south coast of Western Australia and gave names to prominent locations around Esperance including the Recherche Archipelago, Cape Le Grande, Mondraine and Remarque Islands, and the town of Esperance.

Matthew Flinders raised the British Flag in the area in 1802, and the Dempster brothers opened the land up for pastoral use in the 1860s. The 1890s saw the discovery and subsequent gold rush to the Eastern Goldfields, which resulted in the building of what became known as the Town Jetty.

In the 1920s the mallee areas around Salmon Gums, 100km north of the Port, were brought into grain production, and in 1935 Esperance's second jetty, now commonly known as the Tanker Jetty, was completed.

The Esperance Sandplain was opened up to agriculture in the 1960s following the discovery of the value of applying trace elements to the soil. This development coincided with the Western Mining Corporation's discovery of nickel at Kambalda and the subsequent nickel boom. This sudden and extensive development demanded a speedy modernization of the harbour facilities.

On November 19, 1965, the Premier of Western Australia at the time, Sir David Brand, opened the first land-backed berth at Esperance. A second land-backed berth was constructed in 1972.

The Port has handled a variety of products since the land-backed berths opened, including various grains, nickel, copper and zinc concentrates, salt, gypsum, live sheep and cattle, petroleum products, L. P. gas, fertilizer products such as phosphate rock, sulphur and processed fertilizers, magnesite, iron ore, granite blocks, soda ash, ammonium nitrate and some small parcels of general cargo.

Trade has continued to grow at the Port starting with the 161,182 tonnes in 28 vessels in 1966. While seasonal conditions have seen a marked decline in grain production, and some mineral trades have been lost to Perth, the overall trend is upwards resulting in a record trade throughput of 7.29 million tonnes in 2004–04 carried in 154 vessels.

A dredging program carried out in 1988 saw the harbour deepened by approximately two metres from 11 metres to 12.8 metres.

As a result of Australia-wide waterfront reforms the Port labour force has been restructured to allow integration of duties and multi-skilling. The workforce is available to operational employers to undertake stevedoring functions.

On February 26, 2002, Premier Dr Geoff Gallop officially opened a new $54 million upgrade of the Port, which included a third land-backed berth being constructed, the Port basin being deepened to 14.5 metres, and the shipping channel to the new berth being dredged to 19 metres.

The Port is to undergo further upgrades to accommodate the unloading and storage of sulphur and the handling of containers for the Ravensthorpe Nickel Project. This includes constructing a storage shed for sulphur and installing a gantry crane on Berth No. 2.


2002 Premiers Excellence Award
Winner in the Economic Development Category

2002 National Case Earth Awards
Civil Contractors Federation
Projects over $10million Esperance Port Upgrade

2002 Institute of Engineers WA Division
Engineering Excellence Awards
Environmental Category
Esperance Port Upgrade

2002 Dept of Minerals and Petroleum Resources
Golden Gecko Award
Environmental Excellence

2001/02 The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport
Transport Achievement of the Year Award

2003 Australian Shipping and Transport Awards
Australasian Port of the Year

This information has been compiled by the Esperance Port Authority for the information of users and others interested in the Port of Esperance. The details given were correct at the time of publication, but are subject to variation.