Events in the History of Newcastle Harbour


1770 Captain Cook sailing 4-5 km off shore recorded "..a small clump of an island lying close to shore." (Coal Island, later Nobby's).

1780 The area now called the Hunter Region inhabited by the Awabakal, Worimi, Waranua, Geawegal, Birbai and Darkinung Aboriginal tribes.

1797 Lt John Shortland  is the first European to discover the waterway he named Hunter River (often later called Coal River) and reported coal outcrops.

1799 First coal exported from the Hunter for Bengal in India aboard the barque The Hunter.

1801 Penal colony established, but abandoned within 12 months after convict mutiny. First cedar cut for export from the Hunter.

1804 The name Newcastle first proclaimed officially by Governor King, but the town commonly called 'Kings Town' until about 1830.

1818 Governor Macquarie ordered start of breakwater to join Nobbys Island to the shore to create the port.

1822 Surveyor, Henry Dangar, commissioned to draw up plans for a township.

1823 Newcastle declared a free town.

1824 Australian Agricultural (A.A.) Company set up by charter in London and granted land at Port Stephens to breed sheep.

1826 A.A. Company took over coal mining from the Government.

1831 Original William the Fourth paddle steamer launched at Clarence Town.

1839 Hunter River Steam Navigation Company formed to be Australia's first steamship company.

1845 First dredging of the Hunter River estuary.

1846 Nobbys Breakwater completed. Ferry service between Stockton and Newcastle begun.

1850 Obelisk, replacing a windmill, erected on 'The Hill' as a landmark for shipping.

1858 First dredging of Newcastle Harbour.

1865 Harbour Navigational Tower built on 'The Hill' (in use till 1918).

1866 SS Cawarra shipwrecked off Stockton beach - 60 lives lost.

1886 Fort Scratchley completed.

1904 The Adolphe wrecked on the Oyster Bank, near Stockton.

1914 Walsh Island Dockyard commenced operations (closed 1933).

1915 BHP Steelworks began production in Newcastle.

1939 World War II caused huge development of heavy industry in Newcastle.

1942 Construction of the State Dockyard at the Dyke End.

1951 Hunter River Islands Reclamation Scheme began (the joining of Dempsey, Walsh and Moscheto Islands) to become Kooragang Island.

1962 Contracts let for harbour dredging.

1966 Maritime Services Board began Newcastle Port development program. First industries established on Kooragang Island.

1967 Basin Coal Loader began operations.

1974 The Sygna runs aground on Stockton Beach.

1976 Port Waratah Coal Services Coal Loader began exporting.

1977 Harbour dredging program ($103 million) began.

1978 Floating Dock 'Muloobinba' commissioned.

1982 Port of Newcastle deepened to 15.2m at a cost of $103 million.

1984 Kooragang Coal Loader shipped its first coal.

1987 Closure of Newcastle State Dockyard.

1988 Newcastle Harbour Foreshore Development opened by Queen Elizabeth II during Australia's Bicentenary Celebrations.

1990 Merger of Port Waratah Coal Services Ltd. with Kooragang Coal Loader Ltd.

1994 Port Waratah Coal Services (PWCS) announced $100 million plan to expand the Kooragang Coal Terminal.

1995 Commencement of the Basin redevelopment for general cargo facilities at a cost of $1.6 million

1996 The 315 metre Iron Pacific loads 183,904 tonnes of coal at Kooragang Coal Terminal to be the largest ship to visit Newcastle. PWCS announced a $700m expansion to their terminal.

1997 Total exports of 60.6 million tonnes, up 13% on the previous year. Corporation undertakes Port side community projects valued at over $4million as part of the Newcastle Bicenentary Gifts program.

1998 Kooragang's new berth K6 is opened. Total throughput for Port in 1997/1998 Financial Year a record 77.06 million tonnes, making Newcastle the Australia’s largest tonnage port.


      1999  Newcastle retains position as Australia’s largest tonnage port with a new record figure for 1999 Financial Year of 78.04 million tonnes.


      2000 In a first for New South Wales ports, Newcastle Port Corporation commenced helicopter transfers of marine pilots to complement existing cutter services.


      2001 Vessel Traffic Information Centre opened. PWCS installs third coal shiploader and support systems at Kooragang to lift port coal capacity to 89mtpa.


      2002  P&O/GrainCorp open Agriterminal on Kooragang Island.


      2003 New import records for alumina, cement and iron & steel


      2004 New trade record of 82.7 million tonnes.


      2005 One of the world’s top 10 luxury yacht manufacturers, Sensation Yachts, establishes Australian facility in Newcastle.


      2006 Coal exports exceed 80 million tonnes for the first time. Trade throughout valued at more than $8 billion.


      2007 Pasha Bulker runs aground Nobby’s Beach. Plans announced to develop former State Dockyard at Dyke Point into a super luxury yacht manufacturing facility for Azzura Marine.


return home




Thanks to Keith from Newcastle PortCorp for his help with this list