The island's original colony, Port Louis, was created by French settlers in an area on the east side of what is now St. George's Harbour. There were deepwater anchorages for oceangoing ships. Although Port Louis was abandoned in 1700 and Port Royal was established where St. George's is today, vessels continued to anchor in the eastern part of the harbour, near what is now the Lagoon. Everything changed in 1867 as a result of volcanic activity. Eruptions in the eastern harbour transformed the deep water into a shallow area just a few feet deep. From then on, the development of port facilities was focused on the western harbour.
The British took over the island in 1778 and the settlers quickly saw the harbour's potential as a naval base. From then until 1889 they made petitions to the British Government to develop the inner harbour, but these were repeatedly turned down by the Admiralty. Eventually, the big idea was shelved and Grenada turned its attention to winning commercial traffic. Although a detailed survey was carried out in 1895, no further action was taken until St. George's first jetty was constructed over 40 years later.
Until then, most cargo handling was carried out using lighters. These were loaded and discharged along the Carenage by three cranes in a laborious process. However, port operations were revolutionized in 1938 by the construction of an 850 ft wooden pier with 30 ft of depth alongside. For the first time, vessels could berth alongside the quay and it was possible to discharge cargo directly into storage sheds because the pier was connected to the land by a rubber bank.
This arrangement lasted just 16 years, however. In 1955 the pier was destroyed by Hurricane Janet and the cumbersome lighters returned to the port.
A new 800 ft quay - much stronger than the previous pier - was opened in 1958 and this time it was connected to the land by more than three acres of hardstanding. This quay is still in use, although it now forms part of a much longer quay and container stacking area.
In 1960 a 12 ft channel was dredged through into the Lagoon, which became a haven for yachts and small craft.
The growing demands of port users prompted the Grenada Ports Authority to develop a Port Expansion Project in 1996. This US$ 11.5 million project was completed in 2000 and involved reclamation of land behind the existing pier and extending the main quay farther into the Lagoon.
In response to the growing frequency of cruise calls, the port established a Welcome Centre at the northern end of the quay to ease the flow of passengers through the port while causing minimal interference with cargo operations nearby.
This major scheme provided 1,100 ft (334 metres) of continuous berth, 270 ft (82 metres) of schooner berth, 36,000 sq ft (3,344 square metres) of covered storage, 1.5 acres of open storage and five acres of container park.
The port now had the capacity to handle cargo and cruise passengers in two distinct areas and with ample cargo handling and container storage areas. As a result, the port was able to embark on its most ambitious plan to date.
In 2003 construction began on the Melville Street cruise ship complex that allowed cruise ship calls to be kept completely separate from cargo handling operations. This was the single biggest development in the port's history, paving the way for Grenada to become a leading cruise port in the Caribbean. The new terminal comprises a 375 metre long jetty capable of handling either four small cruise ships or two mega ships and one medium sized ship. In addition there is an extensive Welcome Centre and Duty Free Hall welcoming passengers into Grenada.
Down the years, there has always been motivation for developing the port and attracting commercial ship calls - and that is still the case today. As the island and its main port face a revitalized future, there is surely much more to come.