In 1770, Lieutenant (later Captain) James Cook landed within Botany Bay at Inscription Point. He and his Endeavour crew stayed in the area for several days collecting and cataloguing vast numbers of previously unknown plants.
Botany Bay was earmarked as a potential site for a British colonial outpost but upon arrival, almost eighteen years later, Captain Arthur Phillip deemed the area unsuitable and moved further north to Sydney Cove with the first fleet.
Construction of Port Botany commenced in 1971 and was opened in December 1979.
The port was managed by the Maritime Services board (MSB) who also controlled nearby Sydney Harbour and later developed Darling Harbour.
In June 1995 the MSB was replaced by the formation of Sydney Ports Corporation who oversaw the ports until April 2013 when NSW Ports was awarded a 99-year lease of the state owned corporation for the ports of Port Botany & Port Kembla, Enfield Intermodal Logistics Centre and the Cooks River Intermodal Terminal.
Today, the port is vital to the economic wellbeing of Sydney and New South Wales. It is home to the state’s largest container facility. It is New South Wales’ primary bulk liquid and gas port with dedicated common user facilities.
The earliest written record of the area known today as Port Kembla was in April 1770, during Captain James Cook's voyage of discovery up Australia's east coast on the Endeavour. His logbook recorded: "There lies a point which I called Red Point, and a little way inland stands a round hill, the top of which looks like the crown of a hat'. The hill Captain Cook noted was for quite some time referred to as Hat Hill but today is better known as Mount Kembla. Red Point, however, has retained its original name.
Later came explorers George Bass and Matthew Flinders visited the area in their boat 'Tom Thumb'. The lagoon near Red Point was named Tom Thumb Lagoon, after the explorers' vessel, and is now the site of Port Kembla's Inner Harbour.
In 1883 the Mount Kembla Coal and Oil Company built a railway from Mount Kembla mine to the coast to ship its coal. There was no natural harbour and the company constructed a jetty just north of Red Point naming it Port Kembla.
By the 1890's Port Kembla jetty was exporting significant amounts of coal and a plan for a deepwater port evolved. This plan ultimately required the construction of the two large breakwaters which form the Outer Harbour as we know it today. The Port Kembla Harbour Act was passed on 23 December 1898, thereby formally proclaiming the area as a port and setting aside an initial £200,000 for breakwater construction.
With the event of the Hoskins Steelworks in the late 1920's the growth of Port Kembla harbour was assured.
Infrastructure investments saw the addition of many jetties around the port including several coal loading jetties which were closely followed by No.4 & No. 6 Jetty which were constructed to service the needs of ER&S, BHP and the growing demand for larger vessels. The 1970's bought another round of construction with the addition of the Products Berths and deepening of the Inner Harbour.
In April 2013, NSW Ports was awarded a 99-year lease of the state owned corporation for the ports of Port Kembla, Port Botany, Enfield Intermodal Logistics Centre and the Cooks River Intermodal Terminal.
Today, Port Kembla is the home to the state’s largest motor vehicle import hub and grain export terminal. It is the second largest coal export port in New South Wales and also handles a range of dry bulk, bulk liquid and general cargo.