Port of Sydney
Review and History

The Port of Sydney is part of the Cape Breton regional municipality in northeast Nova Scotia, Canada. Lying on the southeastern shores of Sydney Harbor on eastern Cape Breton Island, it is the largest urban center on the island. The Port of Sydney has an excellent harbor and several industries that make it a busy maritime center. In addition to a fishing and ship-repairing industry, the city is home to aluminum, concrete, woodworking, and auto assembly plants. It is connected by ferry to Newfoundland and to the rest of Canada by the Canadian National Railway and Trans-Canada Highway. In 2006, over 102 thousand people lived in the Cape Breton regional municipality.

Port History

The Port of Sydney was founded in 1785 by Colonel Joseph Frederick Wallet DesBarres, who was governor of the new Cape Breton Island colony. The group that landed with him included poor English citizens, disbanded soldiers, and Loyalists from New York fleeing the American Revolution.

The Port of Sydney was capital of the Cape Breton Island colony until 1820 when the British merged it with Nova Scotia to capitalize on the rich coal fields around Sydney Harbor. In 1826, the General Mining Association obtained the leases, and the Port of Sydney’s industrial development began.

With many coal mines in the area, the Port of Sydney was home to one of the world’s biggest steel plants by the early 20th Century and a major part of the Island’s economy. With connections to the mainland by rail, industrialization brought an economic boom, and the community was incorporated in 1903.

Sydney Harbor was important to Canada’s World War II effort when a Royal Canadian Navy base was established there to supply Europe-bound convoys. Nazi U-boats patrolled the coast of Cape Breton and Newfoundland during the Battle of the Atlantic. The local iron and steel industry was an important supplier contributing to the Allied victory. Despite its role, the government did not make significant investments in the plants after the war.

By the 1960s, the Port of Sydney’s coal and steel industry diminished and was taken over by the government, which closed the industries at the end of 2001. Loss of this important asset forced the Port of Sydney to diversify its economy.

Today, the Port of Sydney is proudly hailed as the “Gateway to Scenic Cape Breton Island.” The Island is blessed with natural beauty, and it has inherited Celtic music and culture that make it unique in Canada. The Port of Sydney’s dockside pavilion is close to the Port of Sydney’s historic Old Town and many restaurants and shops. The Joan Harriss Cruise Pavilion is not only an outstanding facility for cruise passengers; it is the site for many musical performances, trade shows, conferences, and special events.

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