Port Louis | Mauritius
Port Louis was already in use as a harbor in 1638. In 1735, under French government, it became the administrative center of Mauritius and a major reprovisioning halt for French ships during their passage between Asia and Europe, around the Cape of Good Hope. The Port is named in honor of King Louis XV. During this period of French colonization, Mauritius was known as Ile de France. The French governor at that time, Bertrand-François Mahé de Labourdonnais, contributed to the development of the city. Since Port Louis was relatively well-protected from strong winds during cyclones by the Moka Mountain Range, Port Louis was selected to house both the main harbor and fort for the island. Value of the port continued during the British occupation of the island during the Napoleonic Wars (1800–15), and helped Britain control the Indian Ocean. However, port calls of ships fell drastically following the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. Activity in the port increased during the seven-year closure of the Suez Canal (starting in 1967). Modernization of the port in the late 1970s has helped it maintain its role as the central point for all imports and exports from Mauritius. While Port Louis continues to be the business and administrative capital of Mauritius, expansion of the tourism industry in the late 1990s led to considerable development in Port Louis, with many shops, hotels, and restaurants being built in the Caudan Waterfront area.
Port Louis is home to the nation's main harbor, and is the only official port of entry and exit for sea vessels in Mauritius. Ships must cleared in the port before visiting any other anchorage in the island nation.
The Mauritius Ports Authority (MPA), established by law in 1998, is the port authority responsible for Port Louis. The MPA provides port infrastructure, enters into contracts with private providers for port and cargo-handling services, promotes the use and development of the ports, and licenses and regulates port and marine services. The harbor adjoins the main city, with the port currently comprising three terminals. Terminal I contains a total of 1180 meters of quay, with six berthing positions for cargo, passengers, and fishing boats. Terminal II contains 986 meters of quays with six berthing positions, and includes specialized facilities for handling and storing sugar, fish, tallow, and caustic soda. In particular, the Bulk Sugar Terminal (operated by the Mauritius Sugar Terminal Corporation) can handle vessels with up to 11 meters of draft, can load sugar at a rate of 1450 tones per hours, and can store 175,000 tons of cargo. Also present in Terminal II is a dedicated 124-meter cruise ship jetty, with a dredged depth of 10.8 metres. Terminal III has two 280-meter quays with a depth of 14 meters, and is specialized for handling container ships, having five post-Panamax gantry cranes. Also present are storage facilities for bulk ethanol and tie-in points for reefer containers. Vessels too large to dock at the quays can anchor at the Outer Anchorage, which is still within the official boundaries of the port.
The number of ships visiting the port numbered at over 2,200 annually in 2010. Cargo traffic was slightly over 6 million tons, including containers representing 330,000 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units), 1.5 tons of bulk liquids (mostly petroleum), and 2 million tons of dry bulk items. Overall, the port contributes 2% to the country's GDP
The cruise ship terminal, opened in 2010 and named after Christian Decotter (past chairman of the Mauritius Tourism Advisory Board), illustrates the increasing role of tourism in the economy of Mauritius. Cruise ships of up to 300 metres can be accommodated at the facility, which includes two access bridges for passengers and vehicles. The facility was the first in the Indian Ocean to be capable of handling the largest cruise ships in the world. In 2012, passenger arrivals by sea included 11,510 tourists and 6,450 excursionists who arrived aboard 23 cruise ships.
The city is full of numerous buildings and monuments that reflect its rich and diverse colonial history. Near the city center, there are several French colonial buildings that date to the 18th century, including Government House. Other prominent traditional elements include the Jummah Mosque, the majestic English Saint James Cathedral, the Indian Tamil Temple, the elegant five-tier colonial Port Louis Theatre (Théâtre de Port-Louis), the Champ de Mars Racecourse, and the nearby Chinese Pagoda. Also present are some typical houses from past eras, which are mostly wooden structures with shuttered windows and large porches. However, most homes and commercial structures are now constructed from more durable materials such as concrete, and the city now includes many glass/concrete high-rises.
Local governance of Port Louis is overseen by a municipal council. The City Council of Port Louis was first established in 1830 and is currently one of five municipal councils responsible for the urban areas in Mauritius, as organized under Local Government Act 2011. Twenty-four councillors are elected democratically to administer the council. Councillors then elect a Lord Mayor and a Deputy Lord Mayor. Functions of the council are performed through Departments of Administration, Finance, Land Use and Planning, Public Infrastructure, Public Health, Welfare, Parks and Gardens, and City Library. Services delivered by the local government include pre-school, kindergarten, and vocational schools, health protection, housing regulation, some road services, refuse collection, cemeteries, some environmental and consumer protection services, and economic promotion activities. Other services are provided to the city by the central government. These include police services through the Mauritius Police Force, which maintains two divisions responsible for the Port Louis area (Metropolitan Divisions North and South). There is also a specific Port Police, composed of the Harbour Police and Bulk Sugar Terminal Police. Their roles include providing security to cargo and facilities in the port area and enforcing laws related to harbor regulations, customs, quarantine, immigration, and drug trafficking.
Sports are popular among the inhabitants of Port Louis, as in the rest of Mauritius. Over 35 sports federations are organized under the aegis of the Mauritius Sports Council. Popular activities include football, volleyball, a range of martial arts (Karate, Taekwon Do, Wushu), table tennis, badminton, and pétanque, which is a form of boules. The Mauritius National Olympic committee is also based in Port Louis. Public sports facilities in Port Louis include St. François Xavier stadium, which is used for football. There is however a general dearth of public facilities in Port Louis proper, with most being built in the surrounding less-densely inhabited suburbs and districts.
Football clubs are organized nationwide by the Mauritius Football Association, which currently has ten teams in its Premier League. This includes the Port Louis team, named the Association Sportive Port-Louis 2000 (AS Port-Louis 2000), which won the national championship is 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2011.
Another popular sports activity in Port Louis are the Thoroughbred horse races held at the Champ de Mars Racecourse, which is the second oldest horse race track in the world. Gambling on the horse races can be done both with bookies and the tote, available at multiple locations inside the grandstand.
Gambling in general is a popular "sport" in Port Louis. Besides at the racecourse, within Port Louis gambling can be done in four casinos which offer table games plus gaming, slot, and video poker machines. Port Louis includes the largest casino in the entire country of Mauritius, the Caudan Waterfront Casino at Labourdonnais Waterfront Hotel. Other casinos are the Le Grand Casino du Domaine, L'Amicale Casino, and the Senator Club.