History of Las Palmas Port


Since ancient times the Bay of La Isleta, on the north-east coast of Gran Canaria, had been used by Phoenician and Roman ships as a safe anchorage; but it was not until 1478, the foundation year of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, that regular port activities were to be seen in this harbour. 


As soon as Spain extended its rule over the Canary Islands, Las Palmas became the main support base for maritime expeditions across the oceans. The famous navigator, Christopher Columbus, used the islands as a base for shiprepairs and as his last stop in Europe before sailing to the New World. 


In the 16th century, when the sugar trade was uppermost in the port economy, Las Palmas suffered pirate attacks, naval battles and even pillages as a result of the fierce rivalry between Spain and other maritime powers such as France, England and Holland.


The next two centuries saw a period of decline for Las Palmas. Its activities were confined mainly to fishing and the export of wine, while other ports in the Canary Islands became more significant as ports of call for ships en route to the Americas. 


The recovery started in 1811, with the start of construction work on San Telmo Pier, which nevertheless was beset by political, economical and technical problems.  


The real turning point came in the last decades of the 19th century (1881-83), when a new project for port facilities, on the drawing board since 1856-57, was finally approved and gradually carried out, thanks to the initiative and vision of Fernando León y Castillo, an influential local politician. 


With the establishment of this new complex, Puerto de Refugio de la Luz, the natural harbour of La Isleta became a real port, protected by strong breakwaters and equipped with modern piers. This scheme heralded a phase of rapid urban and economic development, paving the way for the future growth of a vibrant cosmopolitan city and a world-class commercial port.  


One of the first signs of this new era was massive foreign investment, particularly from Great Britain, in trade and tourism. In addition, at the turn of the century, Las Palmas became the gateway to the Americas for immigrants from Europe as well as a key part of the international network of coaling stations.  


Meanwhile, the area between the port quays and the hills of la Isleta became the site of a new urban quarter, mainly for port workers and their families. 


In the first half of the 20th century the key project was the construction of a new longer breakwater, completed in 1935, which served – decades later – as support for the reclamation of the largest pier, Muelle León y Castillo, of today’s port.  


After the Second World War, in which Spain was not involved, the growth in traffic accelerated the pace of port development.  


Subsequent planning schemes, starting in 1947, led to a process of port expansion in which new water basins were created by building alignments of defence works in parallel to existing ones, in the direction of the open sea, while new quayside and operating areas were acquired by restructuring or widening marine works created in previous phases.  


Of particular importance was the construction, between 1966 and 1979, of the impressive Reina Sofía Dock. At the same time, there was a further growth in key port activities such as deepsea fishing, bunkering and shiprepair.  


In more recent times a new commercial, tourist and leisure district has sprung up next to the port area. During the 1990s and the first decade of the 21st century the port capabilities of Las Palmas have been strengthened by new modern terminals for containers and cruise traffic as well as by new industrial and logistics facilities and zones with a privileged tax regime. 


Importance of the Port for the economy of the Canary Islands


Today the direct, indirect and induced effects of port activities in La Luz represent actual production of 2.500 million euros, representing nearly 6% of total production in the Canaries. 


Also noteworthy is the multiplier effect of port activity and that for every euro of demand for port services, the economy produces 1.8 euros intermediate and final, and it´s generate added value in 0,66 euros. 


Regarding employment, the impact of this production is reflected in the creation of about 9.500 direct jobs. A key factor for pushing the Port has been Free Trade Zone of Gran Canaria


Gran Canaria Free Zone was created in 2001 on the initiative of the Port Authority of Las Palmas and is managed by a consortium that also includes the regional government and other public organisations and administrations. 


It enjoys the same advantages as other Free Zones within the EU, allowing unlimited storage, processing and distribution of goods to take place without incurring Customs duties or indirect taxes. In addition, users enjoy the following specific incentives and exemptions: 


• Better conditions for internal processing of goods

• Reduction in corporate tax (to only four per cent) for companies established in the Free Zone. 

• Tax exemption of up to 90 per cent on corporate profits.

• Tax reduction of up to 40 per cent on profits from the sale of goods produced in the Free Zone.  

• Fiscal deductions for companies established in the Free Zone which make new investments  

• Indirect tax exemption (legal acts registration tax and VAT) when setting up companies and acquiring new assets.  


Services in Las Palmas Port 


Las Palmas Port have benefited from the potential of their strategic location by developing a varied range of maritime services that have made them a centre for seaborne trade between Europe, Africa and the Americas. 


In this way, Las Palmas is able to satisfy the whole range of demands from any port operators or shipowners. 


Over the years, Las Palmas has become the leading port in the East Mid Atlantic for shiprepair, bunkering, deepsea fishing and container handling. Moreover, its high degree of connectivity, mainly with West Africa, has given it the status of a European-level trade gateway to African markets.




It also stands out as a cruise port and yachting base for transatlantic crossings, with a highly developed tourist hinterland that benefits from favourable climatic conditions. 


Thanks to its favourable location, at the crossroads of routes between Africa, Europe and the Americas, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria has become a universal port of call, able to deal with vessels of all types. As a logistics platform for all three continents, the port has the potential to attract ever-growing levels of traffic.


Other competitive advantages help to explain the success of Las Palmas as the busiest port in the Eastern Mid Atlantic and West Africa range. They include: 

• High density of shipping links built up over the years, with connections to 510 ports in 135 countries 

• Availability of state-of-the-art facilities 

• Technical and commercial skills of the local maritime and port community. 

• High quality services combining flexibility and diversity. 


As a result, the port has a multipurpose role

1. Transhipment centre and logistics platform for containers and other commercial cargo on a regional (Canary Islands), national (Spain) and tricontinental (Europe-Africa-Americas) scale. 

2. Service station for ships on Atlantic routes, with a long tradition of competence in bunkering, provisions and shiprepair. 

3. Well established base for international fishing fleets. 

4. Passenger port serving both cruise ships and ferries. 

5. Yachting centre, ideally positioned to support transatlantic voyages. 


Small wonder that Las Palmas ranks high in the league of Spanish ports for a range of activities, including first for shiprepair, second for fishing and bunkering and fourth for container handling and passenger traffic.


Future projects 


Esfinge harbour 

A new port basin under construction north-east of the present facilities, is seen by Las Palmas as a vital catalyst for development in the near future. 


The two phase of the project has been completed. This includes the second section of the main breakwater, 600 metres of quay and 40 hectares of land reclamation with related urbanisation works (€17 million). 




Further investments have been planned in 2011-2014

• Main breakwater phase three:23,6 million€ 

• Internal quays, ro-ro jetties and ramps: 33,7 million€ 

• Southern breakwater: 12 million€ 

• Demolition of obsolete defence works and construction of a new road system: €4.3 million. 


The whole project, due for completion by 2015, will include:

• A breakwater of about 1,400 metres in length. 

• An overall quay length of about 1,450 metres with 15.0 metres draught. 

• Over 550,000 square metres of operating areas, to be partly transferred to the Gran Canaria Free Zone. 


Esfinge Harbour will be subdivided into four operational sectors

• Multipurpose terminal with seven ro-ro ramps and 250,000 square metres of surface: for ro-ro and passenger traffic, bulk handling, logistics and shiprepair.

• A new container terminal, possibly complemented by areas for conventional general cargo and/or for shiprepair, on a total area of 200,000 square metres.

• A 50,000 square metre area for services and logistics activities and a 52,000 square metre zone for industrial uses and liquid bulk storage immediately behind the multipurpose terminal. In particular, ferry traffic will be moved to the new multipurpose terminal.


Source: Las Palmas Port

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