Maritime transport – the “batelage”

  • Context

    Due to the remoteness of Bel Ombre, inhabitants of the area have historically heavily relied on maritime transport for conveyance of goods to and from Port-Louis. The existence of a shipbuilding activity is already noted as of [1] 1782 by Nicolas de Céré who visited the area. This activity was further developed under Charles Telfair.  In addition to crops and finished products including sugar being shipped, the locally built ships served to transport timber, which was remarked as being “very important for the colony” by the same Mr. Céré. With the expansion of the sugar industry, maritime transport became even more important up until 1955 when it was supplanted first by the railway system and subsequently by road transportation.[1]


    [1]Jean-Pierre Lenoir, Bel Ombre, entre mer et montagne, Editions du Corsaire


The Batelage, sugar depot and point of embarkation

The Batelage was likely constructed around 1890. It served as a warehouse for the sugar produced by the Bel Ombre factory. The sugar was packed in bags made of Aloe burlap produced locally and was transported from the factory on a small railway to be stocked at the Batelage before being transported to Port-Louis aboard the Côtiers.

With the centralization of sugar factories and expansion of sugar cane crops, the population relied increasingly on imported goods, and the Côtiers or ketches, also ensured the transfer of important food supplies from Port-Louis to Bel Ombre. Thus, when the Côtiers came back from Port-Louis, they disembarked food supplies which were transported by wagon up to the local general store or the “Boutik Sinwa”. These ketches also transported lime which was used for the fertilization of the crops as well as for decanting the sugar cane juice.


The present-day building

Sugar remained nonetheless the most important transported commodity between Bel Ombre and Port-Louis, a voyage that took anywhere between 6 hours and a few days, depending on the currents and winds. Today, the Batelage building is the only feature which remains of the old village wharf. It has been used until recently by local fishermen. [1]



[1] Domaine de Bel Ombre, History – Le Batelage retrievedfrom

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