Port St Francis, one of the few privately owned and managed harbours in South Africa, has just marked 20 years in existence. Home to the more than 50 chokka fishing boats of the St Francis Bay fleet, and a substantial small craft harbour and marina, the port, which celebrated last month, is also popular with holiday-makers and is again bursting at the seams this summer.
“The port is unique in that not only is it a viable working, commercial harbour, it is also a residential marina boasting a wide selection of residential units, with its own retail outlets, excellent restaurants and bars, and marine supplies right on the premises,” Port St Francis Property Owners Association general manager Mike Nunan said.
The waters off St Francis Bay and Cape St Francis are prime fishing grounds for calamari. Following the construction of the canals and the small – boat harbour at the canals, fishing boats based in Port Elizabeth found it useful to use the facilities there, Nunan said.
“However this soon became impractical and the need for a suitable harbour right here in St Francis Bay was becoming increasingly evident.
“That is when the idea of combining a working harbour with residential and holiday accommodation was conceived, and so Port St Francis was conceptualised and born.”
There being no natural inlet for the harbour, a suitable site was selected, EIAs carried out and excavation of the inner harbour and construction of the breakwaters begun.
“Much of the rock dug out of the new harbour basin was used for the construction of both the main and secondary breakwaters, as well the reclamation for the housing development adjoining the secondary breakwater,” Nunan remembered.
The Port St Francis small boat harbour and marina provides a protected water area of about 2.5ha, with about 200 moorings for recreational and fishing craft. An innovative breakwater design saw the first deployment of Core-Locs, an economical single layer armour unit developed in the US.
Construction was completed in November 1997 and today more than 50 chokka boats from various commercial companies use the port as their home base.
“This industry has a massive economical effect on the financial success of St Francis Bay and surrounding area,” Nunan said.
With its 236 accommodation units already developed around the harbour basin, and plans for more to come, the financial impact of the port on the local economy is immense.
“Retailers, wholesalers, building contractors of every description, the marine boating industry, building material suppliers, food and beverage outlets, estate agents and many others get a major share of their annual income from the harbour and the residential sectors at the port, not to mention the many employment opportunities created for the local community,” Nunan pointed out.
During the tourist high seasons Port St Francis fills to capacity as holiday makers come flocking thither.
“The visitor gets an up-close experience of the chokka fishing industry, with the added advantage of being able to take a leisure sea cruise, a deep-sea fishing charter or even a whale and dolphin watching charter directly from the port,” Nunan said.
Twenty years on, Port St Francis has become a popular tourist attraction, a solid residential investment opportunity and an integral part of the local St Francis Bay community.
For more information on Port St Francis, visit www.portstfrancis.org or contact Nunan on (042)294-0954.