Fremantle Stuff > Port

See also: Administration, Harbour Masters, Pilots

Fremantle Port

The port of Fremantle, in the mouth of the Swan River, was opened in 1896. It was constructed at the direction of the Supervising Engineer of Public Works, Charles Yelverton O'Connor. Before its construction there was much debate about where the port should be: in the river, in the sea near its mouth, in Gage Roads, or in Cockburn Sound. The discussion continues to this day.

Before the port was opened, ships used at first to have to drop anchor somewhere near Fremantle. That this was a risky procedure is shown by various shipwrecks, notably that of the Marquis of Anglesea, 23 August 1829, which was wrecked on what was subsequently named Anglesea Point.

Then various jetties were built: in Bathers Bay, in South Bay, and out from Anglesea Point (the short and then the long jetties).

Victoria Quay is the name given to the South Wharf of the port in the Swan River at Fremantle during the reign of Queen Victoria - tho the name may be changed back to the original one. The North Wharf is now almost entirely a container terminal. This page deals with the buildings on the southern wharf.

Cargo sheds A-D are still on the wharf, with E Shed now functioning as a tourist market and restaurant facility on the other side of the access road. J Shed has been moved to Arthur Head. David Hutchison's article about the sheds is available online here.

The Immigration Complex Buildings


Google's image shows the gap between B and C Sheds on the left (and a naval ship in port), and the four buildings in the immigration complex. From the top: the cafeteria, immigration office, toilet, waiting room, electricity substation.



Fremantle Library photo c. 1909 no. 976: The Western Australian Immigration Office and Information Bureau on the Fremantle wharf at Victoria Quay. It was completed 29.11.1906 at a cost of 1002 pounds. It stood near the C shed for six years and was then moved to the Railway reserve at the Market Street bridge. In 1907 there were 949 assisted and nominated passages to Western Australia and in 1911, 9578.


The building with the sign 'The Old Police Station' was the Immigration Office. It is currently wire-fenced. The statue of C.Y. O'Connor used to stand in front of this building, looking towards the harbour that he originated. (It now stands in front of the Fremantle Ports building but looking to the east, in the direction of the water pipeline to the Goldfields that was his other enormous achievement.) The sign used to say TOURIST AND IMMIGRATION BUREAU.

The small building on the right was a public toilet.

The former Waiting Room (1928) is being allowed to fall into disrepair by Fremantle Ports.


The back of the old waiting room.


The largest building is the 1945 lumpers cafeteria now called the C.Y. O'Connor Centre. It was also known as the Security Centre. This building required the demolition of the 'First and Last Store in Australia', Mr Rochefort's refreshment room and tobacconist shop.


Central entrance on the southeastern side of the O'Connor Centre.

The Passenger Terminal


The Passenger Terminal (1964) is a large and significant building which is still used by cruise ships despite access to its southern side being compromised by the area being mainly used for the temporary parking of imported motor vehicles. It was designed by Hobbs Winning & Leighton, the firm founded by J.J. Talbot Hobbs.

The Maritime Museum


Cox Howlett & Bailey Woodland's Maritime Museum (2002) is near the most western extremity of the wharf.

The Harbour Trust building


fpaThe 1893 Harbour Trust building - seen here in its original position on Arthur Head, when it was the office of the Supervising Engineer of Public Works, C.Y. O'Connor - was on the FPA site until 1962.

The Port Authority building

The Fremantle Ports building (seen here from the Dalgety building) is very close to the southern wharf, tho it has the nominal street address 1 Cliff St. The organisation's name has 'ports' in the plural because it controls not only the port in the Swan River, but also various facilities in Cockburn Sound.

References and Links

Appleyard, Reg 2012, 'Port plans: Stirling to O'Connor'Fremantle Studies, 7: 123-136. 

Dowson, John 2001, Fremantle: the Immigration Story, Fremantle Society.

Dowson, John 2003, Old Fremantle: Photographs 1850-1950, UWAP.

Dowson, John 2011, Fremantle Port, Chart and Map Shop Fremantle.

Dowson, John 2014, Off to War: WWI 1914-1918, TFS Corp, 2014.

Fletcher, Tony 1999, 'Fremantle 1939-1945: extraordinary events at the port'Fremantle Studies, 1: 25-29.

Harcourt, Geoff 1999, 'The purple circle'Fremantle Studies, 1: 39-46.

Hutchison, David 1999, 'Shedding light on sheds in transit', Fremantle Studies, 1: 66-76. [See also: sheds on Victoria Quay.]

Hutchison, David 2006, 'Walk 1: Victoria Quay', Fremantle Walks.

Hutchison, David 2012, '"Bloody Sunday" revisited', in Paul Arthur Longley & Geoffrey Bolton, Voices from the West End: Stories, People and Events that Shaped Fremantle, WA Museum: 210-249.

Ludewig, Alexandra 2014, 'Fremantle Port: gateway to abeyance', Fremantle Studies, 8: 78-95.

Peters, Nonja 2004, 'The immigration buildings Victoria Quay 1906-1966'Fremantle Studies, 3: 40-52.

Stevens, J.W.B. 1929, The History of the Fremantle Harbour, A Romance in Port Building, in Hitchcock, qv.

Fremantle Ports, 50 Years Administration Building booklet, online.

Notes in Fremantle, the newsletter of the Fremantle Society: October 1994 (E Shed), August 1998March 2004August 2007September 2008March 2010October 2014.

See also: lumpers.

Garry Gillard | New: 18 September, 2017 | Now: 9 January, 2019