_Sugar Loading Towers, Bridgetown Harbour_
The sugar industry has played a significant role in the Barbadian history and economy. Sugar farming was introduced by the Dutch in the 1640s, when it became the principal source of revenue for the island. Initially sugar was only used for feedstock, as fuel and for producing rum. By 1644 the larger plantations started exporting sugar.
Barbados became very attractive to the British who moved in to start sugar plantations. Many of the plantations had grinding mills which were used to extract and process the cane juice. Sugar was then sent to Britain to be refined along with molasses and rum. Bridgetown became the center of trade and commerce. Its harbour was often filled with trading vessels as well as being the first port of call for passenger ships making the trans-Atlantic crossing from Africa.
Standing proud and conspicuous on the breakwater of Bridgetown harbour are three sugar loading towers. They are not only symbols of the sugar industrial heritage of Barbados, they are still used to load sugar onto cargo ships for export. At the harbour facilities are available for the loading of sugar and molasses, which can store up to 80,000 tons of bulk sugar. Conveyor belts carry the sugar into the towers before being loaded onto the cargo ships via the long shoots. The towers are capable of handling up to 500 tons of sugar per hour.
As the cost of sugar production increased and the price of sugar in the international market dropped, many sugar factories to close, hence the decline of the sugar industry. By the 1900’s Barbados’ Sugar Industry was down to only sugar factories. By the late 1970s and early 1980s it (the economy) has diversified into the manufacturing and tourism sectors.