The Port of Broome has played a vital role in the past 126 years in the development of the North West. On 10 August 1889, just five years after Broome was founded, the Broome Port was proclaimed as a Warehousing Port.
In the first years the Port did not have a wharf to operate from so vessels would come in on the tide and sit on the bottom once the waters receded. Cargo was lowered over the sides of ships and carried to shore.
In 1896 the State Government awarded a contract to J Wishart & Sons for the construction of a 2,953 feet (about 900 metres) wharf at Mangrove Point (Town Beach) which was completed the following year.
The Port was essential to life in Broome as everyone relied on the West Australian Steam Navigation Company’s fortnightly mail steamer service to travel to Perth or Darwin. Ships of the Blue Funnel Line traveling between Perth and Singapore called at Broome en route.
The wharf was the headquarters of the pearling fleet, and essential to the cattle industry - a tradition which has continued into modern times. The Port was connected to the town by a tramway line which ran from Chinatown to the end of the wharf.
The wharf served as a 'spring tide port' and trading vessels could only enter and leave port on spring high tides. At low tide the flat bottomed vessels would rest on the muddy sand.
Construction on the present deepwater wharf at Entrance Point began in February 1964 and was officially opened in July 1966. The state of the Port's infrastructure received a substantial boost in 1996 when the Government approved a $3.9m deferred mantainance program.
The Port’s trade grew rapidly with tonnage throughput averaging a 15% increase per year between 1997 and 2006. The trade growth was helped by substantial improvements made to the Port’s facilities including the newly constructed $18,940,000 wharf extension and major upgrades to water and fuel supply to the wharf, electricity capacity, wharf cranes and forklifts. The wharf extension was timely for the Browse Basin offshore oil and gas developments, and also enabled the larger cruise ships to visit with commensurate benefits to the local economy.
The Port was administered by the Department of Harbours and Lights and later its successor agencies, the Department of Marine and Harbours and the Department of Transport. Following a review of the future of the Kimberley ports in 1995, a Port Advisory Board was established and a resident General Manager was appointed.
BrPA was gazetted on 1 January 2000 and charged with the strategic management and development of the Port. BrPA complies with the Port Authorities Act 1999 (WA), which sets out the functions of Port Authorities, the areas that they are to control and manage, the way in which they are to operate, and related matters. On 1 July 2014, with the introduction of the Ports Legislation Amendment Act 2013, BrPA became the Kimberley Ports Authority (KPA) with the ability to manage more than one port. The Port of Broome is controlled by the KPA Board of Directors under the Chairmanship of Laurie Shervington.
The Port serves a vital function within the Kimberley regional economy. It services vessels working in the pearling, fishing and charter boat industries, cruise ships, naval and customs boats (around 1,200 berthings per annum) with the majority of the port’s annual income derived from the offshore oil and gas industry, cattle export, petroleum, and general cargo.
Offshore oil and gas support began in earnest in January 2007, however since March 2000 gas explorer Inpex Browse was joined by BHP Petroleum, Shell and Woodside Energy in working out of the Port. The current oil and gas campaigns being serviced from Port of Broome are for Inpex and Shell Australia.
The Port aims to build on this trade by securing the support business of all offshore exploration in the Port’s 1,000 km long catchment zone mid-way between distant offshore service bases Darwin and Dampier.