Port Louis Harbour
THE BEGINNINGS – DAWN OF 16TH TO END OF 19TH CENTURIES
The island of Mauritius was uninhabited before its first recorded visit during the Middle Ages by Arab sailors, who named it Dina Arobi. In 1507 Portuguese sailors came to the uninhabited island and established a visiting base. Diogo Fernandes Pereira, a Portuguese navigator, was the first European known to land in Mauritius. He named the island "Ilha do Cirne".
In 1598 a Dutch squadron under Admiral Wybrand Van Warwyck landed at Grand Port and named the island "Mauritius" after Prince Maurice van Nassau of the Dutch Republic, the ruler of his country. The Dutch established a small colony on the island in 1638, from which they exploited ebony trees and introduced sugar cane, domestic animals and deer.
Port Louis was in use as a harbour in 1638.
In 1735, under French government, Port Louis became the administrative centre of Mauritius and a major provisioning halt for French ships during their passage between Asia and Europe, around the Cape of Good Hope. The Port is named in honour of King Louis XV. During this period of French colonisation, 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. France, which already controlled neighbouring Île Bourbon (now Réunion), took control of Mauritius in 1715 and renamed it Isle de France. The 1735 arrival of French governor Bertrand-François Mahé de La Bourdonnais coincided with development of a prosperous economy based on sugar production. Mahé de La Bourdonnais established Port Louis as a naval base and a shipbuilding centre
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 harbour 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.
France formally surrendered the island to Great Britain on 3 December 1810, on terms allowing existing settlers to keep their land and property and to use the French language and law of France in criminal and civil matters. Under British rule, the island's name reverted to Mauritius. Port Louis Harbour developed rapidly and gained in prominence in the Indian Ocean over the years under the British rule. However, port calls of ships fell drastically following the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869.