The Port of Kaohsiung lies on the southwestern shores of the island of Taiwan about 180 kilometers south of the Port of Taichung. Taiwan's principal port and the sixth largest container port in the world, Kaohsiung City is an important industrial center as well, with the 2.2 thousand hectare Linhai Industrial Park located on the waterfront near the Port of Kaohsiung. The industrial park contains a shipyard, a petrochemical complex, a steel mill, and many other industries. In 2008, the municipality of Kaohsiung City was home to over 1.5 million people, and more than 2.7 million lived in the metropolitan area.
Kaohsiung City is also home to many manufacturing plants and an oil refinery. Manufacturers produce aluminum, cement, refined sugar, salt, brick and tile, fertilizer, and paper. The Port of Kaohsiung is an export center for agricultural products produced across southern Taiwan, and it is also an important fishing port. The city also supports a major canning industry that processes both fish and fruit.
Called Ta-kou by the Chinese who settled the area in the later Ming Dynasty, the site of the Port of Kaohsiung was a small fishing village and home to the indigenous Makato tribe. It was known as Tancoia by the Dutch who dominated from 1624 to 1660 and began to develop the harbor. Real growth of the Port of Kaohsiung began in the late 1600s when it was called Ch'i-hou after the Chinese had regained the island.
By 1684 under the Qing Dynasty, the harbor for the Port of Kaohsiung had been improved dramatically, and the port was an important distribution center for the Kaohsiung and Pingtung areas.
The Port of Kaohsiung became a treaty port (open to foreign trade) in 1863 and a customs station in 1864. After that, it grew steadily in importance as a port for south Taiwan. Growth was only slowed by the rocky harbor entrance that has to be dredged for vessels to enter its excellent natural harbor. A lighthouse was built atop Chihou Mountain in 1883. In 1891, one sailboat and eight ships used the Port of Kaohsiung harbor.
When the Japanese occupied Taiwan after the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95, the Port of Kaohsiung became one of Taiwan's most important ports because it could provide the raw materials and food needed in Japan. The country's main north-south railway line ended there.
The harbor was developed by the Japanese from 1904 to 1907, and they named it Takao in 1920, making the Port of Kaohsiung a municipality at the same time. In 1904, they installed pilings for the warehouse, dredged the sandbar, and reclaimed a large area of land for the railway. By 1912, the Port of Kaohsiung had wharves that could receive seven three thousand DWT ships.
The Port of Kaohsiung was quickly overcome with commercial traffic and expansions were begun. In 1924, 904 ships called at the Port of Kaohsiung carrying almost 1.4 million tons of cargo. By 1937, the Port of Kaohsiung had a total of 1878 meters of wharves with alongside depth of 8.2 meters, and the harbor could accommodate 26 ships from three to ten thousand DWT. The wharves could berth 16 ships at one time, and there were 25 warehouses. In 1937, the Port of Kaohsiung handled 2.5 million tons of cargo.
The Port of Kaohsiung was used by Japan as an important military base for its World War II campaigns in the Pacific and Southeast Asia, and they created a huge modern port to serve their needs. Near the end of the war, the Japanese established an aluminum industry in the Port of Kaohsiung. For almost a year in 1944-45, the Allies continuously bombed the Port of Kaohsiung. To slow the Allied advance, the Japanese destroyed the warehouse and cargo-handling equipment in the Port of Kaohsiung and sank five ships in the harbor. The Port of Kaohsiung became a ghost port.
When Japan surrendered to end World War II, Taiwan came under the administration of the Republic of China (later the People's Republic of China), and the Port of Kaohsiung began to grow quickly. The port had been seriously damaged during the war, but it was quickly restored.
When the Chinese Nationalist Party under Chiang Kai-shek lost the Chinese Civil War, they moved the government of the Republic of China to Taiwan with Taipei as its capital. In 1955, the reconstruction of the Port of Kaohsiung was complete. In 1958, a new expansion project began that added 544 hectares of shoreline for new facilities and increasing trade. Fishing boats joined its busy commercial traffic.
The second harbor at the Port of Kaohsiung was completed in 1975 to accommodate the larger modern vessels. In 1980, the Chungtao New Commercial Harbor Area added 27 deep-water wharves and two shoal wharves to the Port of Kaohsiung, and work began on the industrial park that includes a million-ton ship-building yard and new container terminals. In 1990, the Port of Kaohsiung's fifth container terminal went into operation.
The government of Taiwan promotes the Port of Kaohsiung as a major transshipment center for the Asia Pacific, a global logistics center, and a free port. With a favorable climate, the Port of Kaohsiung overtook the Port of Keelung as Taiwan's premiere port. Serving a rich agricultural region, the Port of Kaohsiung exports large volumes of rice, bananas, sugar, peanuts, pineapples, and citrus fruit.
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