It was a relatively small trans-Atlantic vessel of 1700 tons, carrying only 100 passengers; however it was the first iron ship ever to visit Castries.
Did you know the coaling industry started in Port Castries in 1863? The coaling industry reached its peak in 1911, when the tonnage of shipping entered and cleared in St. Lucia hit an all-time high of almost 3.5 million tons of coal. Castries ranked thirteenth on the list of principal shipping ports in the Dominions and the Colonies. In 1913 a record was set for manually loading coal when the workers from the Peter Coaling Company placed 1116 tons into the bunkers of the HMS Cumberland within five-and-a-half hours.
Nevertheless by 1914, the tide turned again. The opening of the Panama Canal drew shipping away from St. Lucia and coaling entered a permanent decline, exacerbated by the introduction of oil-burning ships. The First World War created a need for bunkers for allied warships, but it was only a temporary reprieve. In 1920 a coal carriers’ strike was quietly settled, but other strikes followed and when Wall Street collapsed in 1929, Port Castries was left virtually destitute.
Coal carries went on strike for higher wages in November 1935 and again in May and June of 1941 – but by then, the industry was almost dead and the strikes only served to hasten its demise.
Source: A History of St. Lucia by Harmsen, Ellis & Devaux – 2012
This feature runs every Tuesday and Thursday. It is compiled by daughter of the soil Anselma Aimable, a former agricultural officer and former correspondent for Caribbean Net News, who has a deep interest in local culture and history. Send ideas and tips to [email protected]