“Krom Chao Tha”, meaning Harbour Department, originated during the reign of King Narai the Great (1656-1688), a time when maritime trading with foreign nations was at it’s peak.
During the Rattanakosin era (1781- current) trade between nations was by way of “jung-gorb” or port dues, which allowed direct trading with private citizens without having to go through the Treasury Department. King Mongkut (King Rama IV – 1851-1868), at the request of the British government, allowed trade agreements to be altered. Siam was requested to collect customs tariff upon arrival instead of continuing port dues. Following the British precedence, other countries requested similar alterations to trade agreements.
As a result of these changes, the workload of the Harbour Department increased. This increase made it necessary to reform the Department. To that end, there was the contract of employment signed between the Siamese and British governments on August 5th 1859. Captain John Bush, a British seaman, was appointed as Director General of the Harbour Department, commonly known as “Captain Bush” and sometimes by his Thai title “Phraya Wisuth Sakoradith”. August 5th is now knows as the Harbour Department’s Founding Day.
The Harbour Department was built on land in Talad Noi provided by Chao Sua Seng, a wealthy trader when Captain Bush was appointed. Talad Noi, meaning ‘small market’ sits at the southern end of Chinatown, on the east bank of the Chao Phraya River. It was a hub for trading and shipping and was where shipping engines were repaired. The Harbour department is short walk from Charoenkrung Road soi 30, also known as Captain Bush Lane, where the Captain resided.
The Harbour Department was renamed as Marine Department in 2002. In 2020 the Marine Department Pier N4 was refurbished in a style fitting of its location and heritage. The design combines two western architecture styles: “Bozar (1830- 1890) and Neo-classic (1660-1798)”. On the upper floor of the pier a small museum case holds a standing Buddha statue facing the river. By the pier is a small garden for taking in the view of ‘the dragon’s belly’ of the Chao Phraya River. On the river in front of the park and adjacent to the pier, is a replica of piers in bygone days.