Sunda Kelapa Harbor is one of the oldest ports in Indonesia. The port that became the forerunner of the city of Jakarta is estimated to have existed since the 5th century AD. At that time, the Port of Sunda Kelapa was under the Kingdom of Taruma Negara.
Since the 12th century, the port belongs to the Hindu Kingdom of Pajajaran. The Hindu-Buddhist kingdom has thousands of cities in Pakuan Pajajaran, located in Batu Tulis, Bogor. At that time, from Sunda Kelapa, Pakuan Pejajaran could be reached within 2 days of traveling along the Ciliwung River.
Since being managed by the Sunda Kingdom, Sunda Kelapa Port, which has a strategic location, has succeeded in becoming one of the important ports on the island of Java.
Not only traders from various regions in the archipelago who carried out trade activities at this port, but also foreign traders from outside countries, such as China, the Middle East, India, England and Portugal.
According to a Portuguese testimony, Tomé Pires, who came to Sunda Kelapa in 1513, the port was deep, crowded and well-managed. A few years later, another Portuguese, Enrique Lemé, visited Sunda Kelapa by bringing various kinds of gifts to the Sundanese king Surawisesa (A. Heuken, 2016).
Relations between the Portuguese and the Sunda Kingdom were established through an agreement on 21 August 1522. This was the first international agreement in the archipelago. As a sign of the agreement, a large stone was planted on the beach as a memorial to the agreement. The stone called Padrao was rediscovered in 1918 when it was excavated to build a new house on the corner of Jl. Cloves and Jl. East Fishermen.
The Portuguese then got permission to set up a warehouse and fort on the banks of the Ciliwung River. In addition, the Portuguese also wanted to buy food for their fort in Malacca. While the Sundanese Kingdom saw the presence of the Portuguese would strengthen their position in trade affairs, especially for pepper products, matched the position of the Demak Sultanate in Central Java.
Of course, Portuguese relations with the Sunda Kingdom were seen as a threat by the Demak Sultanate. Therefore, Demak planned an attack on Sunda Kelapa. On June 22, 1527, a joint force from the Demak Sultanate and Cirebon under the leadership of Fatahillah attacked Sunda Kelapa. They then succeeded in controlling the port, and changed the name Sunda Kelapa to Jayakarta. This event is then remembered as the birthday of Jakarta City.
In 1596, the Dutch under the leadership of Cornelis de Houtman arrived first at Sunda Kelapa Harbor in search of spices. At that time, spices which had many uses were the main commodities of trade in Europe.
In 1610, the Dutch and Pangeran Jayawikarta or Wijayakarta, rulers of Jayakarta, made an agreement. In the agreement, the Dutch were permitted to create warehouses and trade posts to the east of the Ciliwung River estuary.
The agreement was very beneficial to the Netherlands. They get a large income from the sale of spices in Europe. Seeing the magnitude of the benefits they made, the Dutch finally decided to expand in Jayakarta. After Jayakarta was captured, they changed their name to Batavia.
The Netherlands then renovated the Sunda Kelapa Port. At first Sunda Kelapa port only had 810 m of canals. The channel was extended to 1,825 m.
However, entering the 19th century, Sunda Kelapa Harbor began to be deserted due to siltation of water in the area around the port. This made it difficult for the ship to dock. Even though at that time the Suez Canal had just opened. That should be a great opportunity for Sunda Kelapa Port to grow even more rapidly.
Seeing that this port could not fully utilize the potential provided by the Suez Canal, the Netherlands then looked for another place to develop a new port. The choice then fell to the Tanjung Priok area.
Tanjung Priok then managed to develop into the largest port in Indonesia. With the existence of the Tanjung Priok Port, the role played by Sunda Kelapa Port in the trade of the archipelago is getting smaller.
Now, this port that is included in the administrative area of Penjaringan Sub-District, Penjaringan Sub-District, North Jakarta does not look as busy as during its heyday. This port now only services inter-island vessels in Indonesia. Now the role of the Port of Sunda Kelapa is more as a historical site because of its high historical value.
Dutch heritage buildings around the port area were also used as museums. There are several museums around the port, such as the Maritime Museum, Fatahillah Museum, and the Wayang Museum.