Beira

Mozambique

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The port of Beira in Moçambique is situated at the mouth of the Pungue River at Longitude 34º 50' E and Latitude 19º 51' S. Time Zone is GMT+2 hours. The town of Beira is relatively modern, having been founded at the same time as Johannesburg (late 19th century), after having been identified as a potential port by the Portuguese explorer Paive de Andrade. This activity and rush to create a port and town occurred during the scramble between the Portuguese and British over the occupation of land in eastern southern Africa, with the British (in the form of Cecil John Rhodes' Chartered Company), having a strong interest in securing a sea link for the newly chartered lands of Rhodesia.

De Andrade's report was followed by a hydrographic survey of the river and bar and in 1887 a Portuguese military post was established, out of which the town grew. Beira, which is now Moçambique's second largest city, took its name from the Portuguese crown prince D Luis Filipe, who had been given the title Prince of Beira - the latter place being a region in central Portugal.

By 1889 channel buoys marked the entrance to the Pungue estuary and six years later work began on the first landing stage. A wooden pier was also constructed to serve the railway, which was then under construction.

The railway was built to a narrow gauge (two foot) and reached Umtali (now Mutare) on the Rhodesian border in 1898, but was soon converted to the more practical Cape Gauge of 3ft 6ins (1067mm). The railway quickly became the lifeline of the port and for many years carried much of the cargo and passengers to and from the landlocked Rhodesias (now Zimbabwe and Zambia) as well as Nyasaland (now Malawi). During the UDI days of Rhodesia much of this traffic was lost to Beira and the port and town suffered accordingly.

The civil war in Moçambique also took its effect, particularly with the loss through sabotage of the railway leading to Malawi and the mineral-rich Tete Province

By the mid to late 1920s construction of deepwater berths and improved anchorage at Beira had begun under the control of the company named Companhia do Porto da Beira, which continued to administer the port until 1949 when the Moçambique Ports & Railways Company (CFM) took over administrational control.

“When in Beira it was during the blockade of Rhodesia in 1967 the Royal Navy patrolling the Indian Ocean to stop Rhodesia trading with the world. The trucks carrying copper had Rhodesia Railways painted out and we were told the copper was Mozambique copper .

The only place worth going to was the Moulin Rouge and the place when we was there was full of the US Navy .

The Portuguese army had a big presence and we were warned that they had shot somebody who was taking a shortcut out of the docks .

We took the mail bags out to the RN guard ship which was HMS Devonshire ..”

Robert Page

Warwick Castle alongside in 1960

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