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Sunday, January 09, 2022

Arrival of the first steamboat to Santa Cruz

El muelle de Las Carboneras, Old Valleseco docks, in Santa Cruz de Tenerife
CARLOS TEIXIDOR CADENAS, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1837, the steamship 'Atalanta', arrived from London, bound for Bombay

The Atalanta was the first double-wheel steamboat and 8 knots of speed that, coming from London and bound for Bombay, with 100 passengers on board, refilled its coal bunkers in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, on January 7, 1837. Santa Cruz had been declared a 'Port of Deposit of Coal', on November 11, 1836; As the Royal Order established that the supply should be carried out without tariffs, from this moment on, Santa Cruz harbour became one of the largest coal stations in the world, supplied from Great Britain.

The work of unloading the coal was carried out at anchorage, quickly and efficiently, even at night. The workers of the "black cargo" carried the "Tyne", "Clyde" or the preferred "Cardyff" from the holds of the British-flagged coal steamers to the port and starboard barges, letting it slide through wood planks; Once filled, they transported it to the docks of the importing companies, where the wagons, pulled by mules, took it to the warehouses.

When a ship came to be supplied with coal, it requested it by means of long puffs, each puff corresponding to one hundred tons. From that moment, the wagons began to remove the mineral from the warehouses to take it to the barges, which took it to the ocean liners so that the stokers could proceed to fill coal bunkers. While this work was being carried out, the boats and the deck of the ship were covered with tarps to prevent the cloud of black dust from dirtying it.

With the declaration of Free Ports (1852), the Tenerife dock would become a world-class charcoal station, until the progressive disappearance of the steamships.

On the beach of San Antonio (current Ribera dock), the first coal companies began to be installed to supply ships. These were: Bruce, Hamilton, Davidson and Le-Brun (1852); Virgilio Ghirlanda (1852); Juan Cumella (1857); Cory Brothers (1862); G. Davidson (1868); Juan Croft (1891); Inocencio Fernández del Castillo (1891); etc.

The first company to move (1876) to the left bank of the Valleseco ravine was Tenerife Coaling Company Ltd. Hamilton, formed by Messrs. Bruce, Hamilton, Guillermo Davidson and Le-Brun, forming a model industry for the time, since 12 barges, wagons, scales, etc. were brought in from London and they built a dock and warehouses with a 5,000-ton capacity. Between 1903 and 1910, they came to supply 50% of the coal in this Port.

Elder Dempster's coal warehouses were built, at the beginning of the 20th century, at the mouth of the Tahodio ravine, very close to the North Pier, from where they supplied the numerous vessels of its shipping company.

Cory Brothers and Company Ltd, the largest coal importing company in Cardiff (Wales-UK), which had been associated with Hamilton and Co. from 1884 to 1909, also moved to Valleseco, due to the dock and warehouse that used - located where the Mapfre building stands today - was demolished to extend Imeldo Serís street, until its connection with Avenida Marítima.

In Valleseco they built docks, dry dock and warehouses, being declared by the State, in 1934, a public utility industry, as it was located in the best anchoring area for transit ships, which facilitated fuel import-export operations (Coal).

This industrial complex currently constitutes the only stretch of maritime façade that preserves the stamp and the representative elements of one of the most transcendental stages of the mercantile and port history of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. This area has started, since 1990, the file for its declaration as a Site of Cultural Interest.


Image: In the municipality of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, next to the San Andrés road, in front of the Valleseco neighbourhood, on the coastline, there are old docks and a dry dock. Two of the docks were charcoal makers, for loading and unloading coal from the barges. At the dock of the company "Cory Brothers and Company Ltd", a steam crane worked that worked until 1956. Another dock, now defunct, was used to load dried fish, as there was a fish salting factory nearby, next to the Valleseco bridge. In the background, in the East Dyke, we see docked 2 oil drilling rigs contracted -until 2015- by the Brazilian company PETROBRAS to the Norwegian Seadrill. To the right, at the tip of the Dique del Este, is the "West Taurus" platform, registered in Panama, IMO: 8768414, built in 2008, and temporarily docked in Tenerife, awaiting orders. The other platform is the "West Eminence", also registered in Panama, from 2009, painted in orange. 

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