The history of Port Reunion began in 1872 when a site in the west of Reunion Island called Pointe des Galets was first chosen as the location for harbour development. Up until then, shipping access to Reunion Island was by means of landing stages consisting of pontoons extending out to sea. The development of trade, and in particular the cultivation of sugar cane, made building the port a necessity. Ever since then Port Reunion has shared a history with that of the island.
Pointe des Galets in the west of Reunion was chosen as the site for a port. In 1878 the Reunion Island Railway and Port Company was awarded the contract to build the port as well as the concession to operate the port and railway. In 1879 the largest construction project of the decade started, mobilising over 15,000 workers!
The port of Pointe de Galets was inaugurated on the site of the current Port Ouest. For a century it handled all port operations.
The Reunion Island Chamber of Commerce and Industry became the port concession holder.
A new port in the bay of La Possession was inaugurated: the current Port Est. Its creation was decided on by the French Prime Minister (1976-1981) Raymond Barre, who was a native of Reunion.
Built with a single quayside, Port Est has been modernised in successive phases. The first container gantry cranes were put into service in 1994, and in 2009 the first port extension phase saw the construction of a 635m-long quayside for multiple types of bulk cargo. It has a draft of 14 metres for unloading grains, coal, clinker, and heavy fuel oil.
In 2012, the passing of the law on the reform of the ports of overseas France redefined Port Reunion’s mode of governance. As a result the port authority Grand Port Maritime de La Réunion was officially created on 1st January 2013.
Grand Port Maritime de La Réunion supervised the second phase of the Port Est extension, which was finished by late 2015. The works consisted of extending the container quay by 160 metres, deepening the dock to -15.50 metres, and acquiring new container gantry cranes able to handle vessels carrying up to 9,000 TEU. A third gantry crane delivered in 2016 completed the upgrade, paving the way for new phases of development.
The town and its port
The port activity soon gave rise to the surrounding town, which became a municipality called Le Port in 1895. The municipality and Port Reunion have literally developed side-by-side, and the town is now home to more than three-quarters of all port complex employees.