Sun | Jan 20, 2019

From ol' time Jamaica | Wharves of Kingston

Published:Sunday | April 1, 2018 | 12:00 AM
At a vantage point, spectacular view of Kingston Harbour and Palisadoes from Martello Tower. The tower overlooked Fort Nugent, which has since moved from a physical space to the backdrop of history.

Kingston Harbour has the distinction of being the seventh largest natural harbour in the world. The Palisadoes, a strip of land across the harbour from Kingston, provides a natural breakwater and gives the harbour protection.

Anyone visiting Kingston for the first time will be impressed with the drive along the Palisadoes into Kingston. On one side, the open sea is rough, with huge breakers crashing on the shore, and on the harbour side the tranquil waters .

The old Kingston Harbour had several wharves along the sea front where ships from all parts of the world came and docked. Some of the names that were famous in those days were The Wherry Wharf, which was to the west of King Street, and the Myers Wharf, also to the west of King Street. To the east, there was the Royal Mail Wharf; then Lyons Wharf; and right at the bottom of King Street, there was Henderson Wharf, where all kinds of hardware goods were offloaded.

All those wharves were finger wharves, meaning that they ran perpendicular to the shoreline out into the harbour. The ships would dock alongside to offload. At that time the depth at the wharves was thirty-six feet.

In later years, with the coming of container vessels, it was obvious that a new harbour had to be constructed. More depth was needed, and the type of wharf was changing. A new harbour was constructed at Newport West to cater to the large container vessels.

Land was dumped up by dredging to add a half mile to the foreshore. On the front, a long bulkhead was built, along which the container vessels would dock. Three large cranes were installed at Newport West in the beginning, whereas today, with the growth of the port, fourteen cranes are now needed to handle the increased container traffic.

Newport West was conceived and developed by the Matalons, and Moses Matalon is the name mostly associated with the development.

- Excerpt from forthcoming book '50 Jamaican History Stories' by Richard Guy. Send feedback to