Durban Harbor’s History

 In Latest News


Durban, South Africa is arguably the busiest port in Africa. As such, boat hiring in Durban has become a profitable enterprise with craft available for pleasure, fishing, whale watching and many other activities. The relatively calm launch from the sheltered harbour gives all manner of craft access to the ocean allowing boat hire Durban to offer a range of vessels to meet all needs, be it recreational or commercial.


Windjammers docked in Durban Harbour | Spirit of eLanIn 1824, the first European settlers landed to open a trading post. It wasn’t long before the early settlers realised that a sandbar running across the entrance of the bay was making access treacherous and impossible except for the smallest of vessels. If Durban Bay was to realise its full potential the sand bar had to be conquered. Human ingenuity would prevail but it would take many engineers and 70 years to release the grip the sandbar had on the Bay.

The first to try was John Milne. He reasoned that the mouth was never completely blocked and that if he could narrow the width of the mouth, the ebbing tide and the water from the rivers flowing into the bay would wash the sandbar away. He began work on the piers but eventual costs and poor progress would be his undoing and by 1858, the sandbar still dominated the mouth of the bay and John Milne moved on.

A commission was appointed by the Lieutenant Governor John Scott to report on the problem. The report was read by Captain James Vetch at the Admiralty. He concluded that a breakwater enclosing an area outside the bay should be built and ships would anchor there. Work started in 1861 using timber and rubble as materials. Unfortunately Vetch underestimated the power of the Indian Ocean and the project was abandoned in 1864 leaving a partly built pier that has since become a locally known reef fittingly called Vetchies,

Durban Wharf Extension | Spirit of eLanThe sandbar continued to dominate the Bay. By 1881 Edward Innes was the Harbour Engineer and opinion had returned to Milne’s initial proposal. Innes subscribed to the theory that suggesting there was a solid rock underlay below the sandbar. Innes was to make good progress on the piers but died in 1887 with the sandbar still intact.

Charles Crofts, was next when he was appointed acting harbour engineer. He did not subscribe to the existence of a solid rock underlay but received little support. He was replaced by Cathcart Methen in 1888 who went on to complete work on the piers and began to employ dredgers to clean out the channel. Unfortunately this did not prove to be successful and Methen was replaced in 1895.

Further efforts to remove the sandbar may have floundered if not for the eventual permanent appointment of Charles Crofts. Crofts stood by his assertion that the sandbar could be removed without blasting and he began dredging in earnest. In 1904 the 12,967 ton Armadale Castle was able to enter the harbour.

Today Spirit of eLan and similar businesses owes a debt of gratitude to these men in defeating the notorious sandbar.

With this in mind, come see the Durban harbor for hose it is today on the Spirit of eLan with a new appreciation for the efforts early settlers made to make the Durban harbor what it is today.


Recent Posts
Please note

Durban Office is affected by Load Shedding and that we will be unavailable on our landlines or emails, but can be reached on Cell Phones 

Gary 073 0010 867 or Amanda 082 854 2737

Contact Us
Whale Watching - Durban | Spirit of eLan