History of the Port

It is hard to imagine that till the 1990’s this piece of land was untouched and consisted of a rocky shoreline and dunes covered by natural vegetation, as the rest of St Francis only six decades earlier.  The establishment of Port St Francis can directly be attributed to the growth of the chokka or squid industry.

When this “white gold” was discovered in our waters in the early 1980’s, the first pioneers flocked to St Francis Bay with their hand lines, jigs and open ski boats. The fleet worked from the northern base of the Kromme River, going to sea and returning on a daily basis. As the industry grew so did the boats and soon deck boats with crew cabins were used, so they could stay at sea to fish over longer periods.

The first freezer vessel was introduced in the early 1990’s so boats could stay at sea as long as the crew had food and water or until the freezers were filled, quite often up to 3 weeks.  Although this was good for the industry, it was bad for the economy of St Francis Bay – the vessels were too big to work from the Kromme River, and soon the fleet left for the bigger harbour in Port Elizabeth, taking not only the fishermen and their disposable income away from St Francis Bay, but also other related industries and the revenue they create.

The need for a harbour became evident and was spearheaded by the then major, Jean Chaput. Mid 1997 saw the first freezer vessels arriving back in their new home, Port St Francis. An important contributor to the economy of the area was saved by the vision of Chaput and his partners.