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A bit of history

The port history is a reflection of the economic and social life of the Languedoc-Roussillon region.
In the past Port Sète has developed from the West to the East.

1666 : The first stone of Mole Saint Louis is placed, following the will of Louis XIV to create a port of export for products of Languedoc. The creation of the port protection, 650 m long sign the birth of the port of Sète.

1820: In the 19th century, the commercial port grows with, as main traffic, wine, sulfur, timber, grain and iron. Sète is also a agrumier port with the orange and lemon transit from the Balearic and Canary Isles thenfrom  Algeria and Morocco, to other French regions. This traffic grew until 1970.

The oldest picture of Sète : 1845

1850: Fleeing the economic crisis, Cetara fishermen settled in Sète from 1850. Cetara is a town in the province of Salerno in the Campania region in Italy. The cetareses fish anchovy and are familiar to Sète, where they stop when looking for blue fish. When looking for a better life, they settled in Sète in waves. Many of them embark as a sailor on Sète’s ships.

1882 - 1888: major works in the port

  • Construction of the West Epi, as an extension of the breakwater.
  • Creation of oil to port behind the pier of Frontignan

1920: From a note of John Prats, president of the chamber of commerce of Sète:
"Sete is not a big port, but a average size port of the most important, the second of the Mediterranean and with relatively low costs. The day will come when it will become a port whose usefulness will be even greater.

At the foot of the hill of Saint-Clair, Sete is wonderfully situated. Housed between 3 external areas: the Mole St. Louis, Frontignan pier, breakwater and its extensions called "Dellon Epi", it is accessible by any weather and the north wind (the Mistral), which in Marseilles in particular, often immobilises ships off for several days, has no influence on our port: no fear of surf ; as soon as they crossed the harbor, the ships will enjoy absolute security.
It can easily receive ships drawing up to 7.5m and even 8m. in the latter case it is prudent to lighten them in the outer harbor whose channel is maintained for trading 8. Their length is irrelevant because there is no lock.


Sete, the St. Louis Lighthouse – at the end the Frontignan Oil refinery

The handling of hazardous materials, oil and gas, takes place in a special pool with a length of 150 m and separated from the outer harbor by a floating insulator dam. The oils are stored in tanks built ad hoc, and then transported by tankers calands to the two refineries in Balaruc (Refinery du Midi) and Frontignan (Industrial Company): an oil tanker of 7000 tonnes is emptied in 4 days.

Sete is rather an import port than export: the goods imported are primarily exotic wines from Algeria, Spain, Greece, Italy. It also imports large quantities of wood staves, oil, sulfur, pyrite, phosphates, nitrates, coal and bitumen. Also to note, the importation of sheepskin bales from Australia and South America to the destignation of the center of Mazamet.

As exports  we can list fine wines produced in Sete, Frontignan, Meze, oils and refined sulphurs, superphosphate, lime and cement, bauxites.

Sete - Resort, the Port and the Jetty

Constituted by the channel that connects the Thau lagoon to the sea, the port of Sete has beautiful body of water and canals lined with docks at variable depths. All these platforms have large enough to store goods. The handling is even easier than the ship moors side to the quay; it is directly done boat to carriage or vice versa when the ship is docked at one of the many docks served by railroad tracks connected to the PLM station or to Midi Station (total length of the tracks on docks: 2000 meters; length of platforms based on 5-7 m: 5000 meters).

Quai Vauban and unloading / loading of wine barrels

The port’s tools, largely operated by the Chamber of Commerce, includes:

  1. Many hoists : stationary cranes and arms, including one of 15 tonnes; mobile steam cranes or electric cranes mounted on tracks and fitted with grabs; steam cranes mounted on pontoons;
  2. Powerful fireboat for the bailout and depletion of ships and also used for extinguishing fires on ships or in buildings located on the edges of the docks.

Once completed, the work to access the lagoon and the digging of the channel, ships of large tonnage could easily access the Thau lagoon and bring at a  minimum costs, the materials needed for Industrial Companies establissed there. Hence the industrial future of the « bassin ». "

1947: construction of the Mole Saint Louis lighthouse

1960 : new fishing techniques are brought to Sète by people returning home from North Africa. Trawling is develops.

1966 : In the historical part of the city center is installed the fishing port, where the fish auction has been build by Le Couteur.

1967 : The auction of Sete was the first in Europe to be computerised.

1966 - 1978 : major works in the port

  • Creation of the « Darse 1 »
  • Project the « Darse 2 »

Unloading and storage of sulfur Quay E

End of 1980 : containers are emerging and cruises are becoming popular. Sète became "a passenger port and containerised cargo." Regular lines for passengers already exist for Morocco, Algeria and the Balearic Islands but with cruises, a record will be reached in 1985 with a total of 126,643 passengers.

In 1982 : The foreigners living in Sète are mostly Spanish and Italian who developed "emigration by neighbourhood and family," the others come from the Maghreb. That year, the workers are the majority (33%) and employees go from 28 to 31%; middle managers from 6 to 15%; senior managers 4 to 8%, "this development is due to the recent decline in industrial activity and the growth of trade and services while fishing shows remarkable stability."



1985: building a base dedicated to the training of teams competing for the America's Cup at the St Mole St Louis: Tabarly base.

1986 : The closure of the Mobil refinery of Frontignan was a brutal blow to the commercial port whose traffic of close to eight million tonnes has suddenly diminished to just over four million tonnes. The port expansion projects were abruptly interrupted. "This closure is certainly the major economic event" of this decade, we learned from Jean Sagnes in his "History of Sète" (Privat Editions). At that time, wine imports from Italy, Spain and Greece are in decline driving down port activity despite the increase in wood and coals.

1988 : Rhône canal at Sète saw its outlet turned towards the sea.

1994 : creation, in front of the station, a water spot originally designed for barges but now exploited by recreational craft.

2002 : The river-sea dike was set up so that the barges can reach protected waters in the commercial port basins. Thus was delineated a lake of 80 hectares called ZIFMar (Intervention Zone Foncière Maritime).

With natural materials, from the new outfall of the Rhone canal at Sète, was created the activity area of ​​the port of Sète to Frontignan. This area should have accommodate the fishing port at first, located in the city center. This project finally did not succeed and the area was devoted to institutions working seafood products requiring adduction in seawater. In its western part, the area host shellfish farming.

2007 : Following the laws for the decentralisation of ports, the port of Sète became the property of the Languedoc Roussillon Region. They have puts in place a major programs of rehabilitation and redevelopment of commercial and fishing; modernisation of its tools and equipment and infrastructures as well as new facilities for the development of the port. The Region decided to create a regional public institution, Port Sud de France, for management of heritage and commercial. The marina is still under the management of ICC Mèze Sète.

2011 : the property of the marina is given to the Region. Port management goes to Port Sud de France.