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Developing Trade and Port Histories: Outports - Ceduna/Thevenard

Ceduna/Thevenard

South Australia's Far West coast (western side of Eyre Peninsula) was dependent on shipping from the earliest days of settlement and before. Explorer Edward Eyre had supplies brought across for him by the government cutter Waterwitch in 1840 because there was no other way apart from slow bullock dray. The small sailing ships of the mosquito fleet - ketches, cutters and schooners - were well suited to the wide bays and for many years supplied the needs of the pastoralists and later the farmers. The Violet of 497 tons was an early exception to the mosquito fleet when she delivered over 3000 sheep in two voyages, from Robe to Fowlers Bay in May 1860. Following this, it was back to the ketches and schooners to deliver supplies and take the wool clip to Port Adelaide. 

The ketches and schooners also delivered the new settlers. The Far West coast was the last to get jetties to ease the load of loading and unloading. The mosquito fleet either beached at low tide and discharged its cargo and then refloated at high tide, or the small vessels were used as lighters to tranship to the larger vessels moored offshore.

The town of Ceduna was proclaimed finally in June 1901 and was known as Murat Bay. A year later work began on a jetty. It was a screw pile jetty because of the rocky sea bed. Its final length was 368 metres, and remains that today.  Shortly after in 1906 the West Coast Shipping Company was founded, as the Adelaide Steamship Company and the Gulf Steamship Company both neglected the West Coast. Initially a fleet of five ketches and the steamer Argyle, West Coast Shipping expanded to include SS Australian and SS Wookata.  Purpose built for the Company in Glasgow, Wookata made some 500 voyages between the west coast and Port Adelaide during the years 1909 to 1928. The West Coast Shipping Company amalgamated with Gulf Steamship Company in 1913 to form Coast Steamships Ltd. The Far West was well serviced for the next few years as Coast Steamship competed with the Adelaide Steamship Company. Adelaide Steamship Co took over Coast Steamship Company two years later, but fortunately it retained the rights to act as a subsidiary company. Adelaide Steamship Company concentrated on the more lucrative Gulf trade and interstate trade, so its new subsidiary Coast Steamships continued to service the west coast with Wookata, and later its replacement MV Yandra. Yandra had a refrigerator compartment - a definite benefit for the delivery of fresh food, and for the local fishermen to ship their catch. Yalata was the last vessel operated by Coast Steamships on the west coast; it was farewelled from Ceduna in early April 1966 with great ceremony. Shipping of general cargo was struggling to compete with road transport and in Ceduna's case with bulk handling facilities at neighbouring Thevenard. 

Today the West Coast bays are noted for the oyster farms, including Ceduna, which now farms in excess of 200 hectares. West Coast oyster farmers produce over 1 million dozen oysters annually.

Thevenard

Prior to World War I railways were beginning to make inroads into the Eyre Peninsula, and impact upon shipping. When it was decided that a railway from Minnipa on the Peninsula, should be built through to the coast to connect with a deep sea port, the decision had to be made as to which port was most suitable. Opinions were offered by various captains who were familiar with the many bays; Government Engineer John Labatt was asked to investigate the question. His report favoured Cape Thevenard - he took into account the ease of dredging for the deeper channel that would be required as ships increasingly grew in size. His report was supported by George Kermode, Engineer in charge of Ports and Harbors, Victoria. The decision was made and in 1914 the contract for the harbour facilities at Thevenard was given to Stone and Siddeley Ltd. They completed the jetty in 1920 after some difficulties. It was however the first concrete jetty in South Australia: 341 metres long, with a head 158 metres long and 11.3 metres wide. SS Walcheren was the first ship to use the new jetty. Loading was still done the old way, loading via ketches. In 1948 Waratah Gypsum began negotiations with the state government about an upgrade to the jetty; Waratah Gypsum wanted to use the facilities for exporting gypsum; an agreemant was reached but not immediately implemented. Later Colonial Sugar Refinery Company proposed erecting facilities of their own at Thevenard for the export of gypsum. A double jetty was briefly considered, but instead repairs were made to the original jetty, perhaps because there had been difficulties in building this jetty. Bulk handling facilities were built in 1960-62. In 1958 a refrigeration and processing plant for the fishing industry was opened in Thevenard. A separate boat haven exists at Thevenard for the fishing fleet, and today the industry is rigorously controlled to prevent over fishing. 

Silos and conveyor belts were completed in June 1961 for bulk handling- the 2000 foot conveyor belt could be used to load gypsum or wheat and later for salt.  The jetty was extended in 1965 and strengthened in 1969. The channel has been dredged to 8.2 metres.

The bulk handling facilities are now managed by ABB Grain Ltd, and the port managed by Flinders Ports. Major exports are gypsum and grain, with fertiliser the main import.

During 2005/2006, 1.938 million tonnes of cargo was handled by Thevenard.

Further reading

Faull, Jim Life on the edge:  the Far West Coast of South Australia.  Ceduna, District Council of Murat Bay, 1988

Collins, Neville The jetties of South Australia: present and past.  Woodside, Neville Collins, 2005

Websites:

Ceduna South Australia. The oyster industry

Flinders Ports:  Port Facilities: Thevenard 

Ardrossan jetty
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Arrival of 'S.S. Morialta' at Port Lincoln.
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Australian warships at Victor Harbor
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Barque Lawhill
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Boats moored at American River
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Cargo ships at Wallaroo wharf
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Channel leading into Lake Butler
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Customs House, Port MacDonnell
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Glenelg jetty 1850
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Grain ships at Ardrossan jetty
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Jetty at Murat Bay
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Jetty Port Lincoln
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