Free Ports



The 17th and 18th centuries were the period of Mercantilistic Policies. These affected ports in a number of ways. The import and export tariffs required a port bureaucracy to keep track of incoming and outgoing cargo and the payments made. Excessive tariffs at one location, favourable tariffs at another, could draw shipping away from one port, toward another. A complex matter were transit cargo; not intended to be imported at that specific port.
Since the Dutch Republic had achieved her independence, the Dutch imposed a blockade on the port of Antwerp (which used to be the busiest port on Europe's entire Atlantic coast). Without a secure access to the North Sea for over a century, Antwerp declined. Sweden, for centuries, had been without a seaport to the North Sea (Atlantic), Sweden's nemesis Denmark controlled the Øresund (the Sound). In 1619, Sweden founded and fortified Göteborg to facilitate Sweden rid herself of the dependency on transit trade. The wars Peter the Great, Czar of Russia, fought, had the object of achieving ports - Asov, Narva; in 1702 he began the construction of St. Petersburg, seaport-capital of his new, modern Russia.

The central element of English mercantilist policy was the NAVIGATION ACT, which was intended to, and successful in, excluding Dutch intermediary competition. In Europe there were a number of countries the economies of which traditionally depended on transit trade - the Dutch Republic, the Republics of Genoa and Venice, the cities of the Hanseatic League (Lübeck, Hamburg, Bremen). In the period of Mercantilism, government policy of absolute rulers was to promote the development of ports in their own countries, in competition with (nearby foreign) ports. In 1675, Livorno (Leghorn) in Tuscany was declared a FREE PORT, Triest (to Austria) and Fiume (modern Rijeka, then in Hungary-Croatia) in 1717. Emperor Joseph II. failed to break the Dutch Republic-imposed blockade of Antwerp (Austrian Netherlands); he declared Oostende (Ostend) a free port in 1781. Gibraltar, a strategic port without economic hinterland, was declared a free port in 1704. The policy was intended to attract traffic away from traditional ports.






EXTERNAL
FILES
Maritime Onformation Network, has alphabetical list of links to ports worldwide
History of the Port of London, from PLA
History of the Port of Rotterdam, from Port of Rotterdam
History of the Port of Marseille, from PMA
History of the Port of Göteborg (Gothenburg), from Port of Göteborg
DOCUMENTS
REFERENCE



This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on September 16th 2003, last revised on November 14th 2004

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