On 25 November 1870 the Madrid Gazette published the Royal Decree which approved the creation of the Board of Works for the Guadalquivir River and the Port of Seville. Francisco Serrano, as Regent of the kingdom , and following the proposal of the ministry of Public Works, which was then headed by José Echegaray, authorized the formation of a special Board to take charge of the management, conservation and execution of the major works in the river and port of Seville.
The Board of Works (Junta de Obras) of the Port of Seville was the third organization of this type to be set up in Spain, after those of Barcelona and Tarragona in 1869, and was the origin of what is today the Port Authority of Seville (APS).
According to the Madrid Gazette of 28 November 1870, this special board “woould be responsible for the conservation and carrying out the works on the Guadalquivir River and the Port of Seville, collecting, administering and investing the funds destined for this purpose, under the direction of the presidency of the provincial Governor, to be made up of: two members of the provincial council, two from the city council, two from the trade section of the Board of Agriculture, Industry and Trade; two shipping companies and six traders; finally the Director of Engineering works and the commandant of the Navy .
The constitution of the Junta de Obras of the Port marked the start of a prolific period in which the docks of Seville underwent a profound transformation. In this second phase of modernization, engineers such as Luis Moliní Uribarri and José Delgado Brackenbury improved the conditions for sailing and gave the port new areas for development further south. They also shaped the urban layout that we see in Seville today and embarked on ambitious projects to protect the city from the risk of flooding.
At the start of the 20th century, the Port of Seville was bustling with activity. The developments in shipping made the installations of the time inadequate for the growing amount of trade. In this context, the director of the Junta de Obras of the Port, Luis Molini, designed a project to improve navigation along the Guadalquivir River and the Port of Seville.
This project placed Seville at the centre of an economic region structured by the Guadalquivir. To justify the project, Molini noted that “the agriculture and industry of the region that flows through the Port of Seville are quite significant and have progressed so far that there can be no fear that these improving works shall remain sterile; on the contrary, there is every indication that, having reached this level of development, there is an urgent need for those elements of progress that can only be supplied through collective social action in the Port of Seville to ensure that they can continue and grow further"
Luis Moliní carried out hydraulic works to facilitate navigation on the river and optimise the conditions for reaching Seville. This involved improvements in the channel at the mouth of the Guadalquivir, the removal of three meanders close to the city with the construction of the Tablada cut and the movable bridge at the head of the cut.
To minimize the effects of the repeated flooding, he began the work of digging out the Alfonso XIII canal, which opened up new spaces for the expansion of the port. New docks were also built at the start of the 20th century. One of these was the New York wharf, which was named after the sailing route from Seville to the United States that departed from here. The other docks created were those of Tablada and Delicias, which opened up new areas of the port and enabled much of the port’s activities to be moved to the south, which meant that the movement of goods in the areas closest to the city gradually declined.
The port envisaged by Delgado Brackenbury was more urban and intimately linked with the city that it shared its space with. Brackenbury’s plans for the port not only gave primacy to the development of the infrastructure, but also to the city’s flood defences and the integration of the port area within the layout of the city. One of the most important developments of this time was the transformation of a stretch of the Guadalquivir into the dock we know today.
The plans included the opening of a new space (Cartuja-brazo de San Juan de Aznalfarache), the closure of the end of the Canal Alfonso XIII with a lock and the closure of Chapina. This meant that the river would become a basin at this point, and the form was similar to the structure we see today. The project also included the building of a defensive wall along the canal to protect the city from flooding. There were also new railway and road bridges and another to link Seville with San Juan de Aznalfarache, the construction of a new railway line and a new sewage system.