Port of Napier
Review and History

The Port of Napier lies on the eastern shores of New Zealand’s North Island on Hawke Bay. About 320 kilometers northeast of the Port of Wellington, it is New Zealand’s most important center for the wool trade, and the Port of Napier serves the surrounding livestock and agricultural district. At one time, the harbor was a natural bay, but it was destroyed in an earthquake it 1931. Today, the Port of Napier is served by an artificial harbor.

The major industries in the Port of Napier are commercial fishing, wool mills, fertilizer makers, tobacco works, and wineries. The port handles cargoes that include wool, dairy products, frozen meat, tallow, and hides. A winter resort, the Port of Napier’s permanent population includes over 54 thousand souls, although over 122 thousand people live in the Napier-Hastings urban area.

Port History

The Maori history of today’s Port of Napier is well documented. Chief Te Ahuriri created a channel in the lagoon there to bring water to the indigenous farms around the lagoon and to support the fishing villages located on the lagoon’s islands.

Captain James Cook’s Endeavor first arrived at what would become the Port of Napier in 1769. The British crown bought the Ahuriri area, including the site of the Port of Napier, in 1851. In 1874, the town was recognized as a borough, and development and reclamation of the marsh lands began. Although Port of Napier was declared a customs port of entry in 1855, the Napier Harbour Board was not formed until 1875 when legislation was passed.

In 1876, the Caberfaioh first berthed in the Port of Napier’s inner harbor carrying a load of hardwood. In 1879, Captain France Amades was given the first Pilot’s Exemption Certificate for the Port of Napier. The first breakwater wharf was completed in 1893, and in 1895, the Glasgow Wharf was opened. 

In 1931, a terrible earthquake killed over 250 people and destroyed both the Port of Napier and the town, and the harbor had to be rebuilt. The style that was popular at the time was Art Deco, which the town evidences today in its architecture. As much as 40 square kilometers of the Port of Napier was under water before the earthquake. In 1933, the first export of a million lamb carcasses departed the Port of Napier.

In 1945, a German submarine entered the Port of Napier without being noticed, starting a local legend about the German seamen who came ashore to milk Napier cows for their rations. In 1950, work began to build on-port storage after the East Coast Farmers’ Fertiliser Company (now called Ravensdown) was created.

Building for on-port pulp storage began in 1973 to serve Pan Pac Forest Products Ltd. The Port of Napier Ltd. was formed after passage of the Port Companies Act in 1988 national law. In 1990, the first mobile container crane arrived at the Port of Napier, and the Container Depot was established in 1994. In 1997, the new Cassidy Quay was opened.

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