Cartagena Bay has been a relevant harbor in Spain since Phoenician times, and has been used by all the subsequent cultures in the country. Its natural conditions are so good that for centuries it has been one of the main Spanish naval stations. Nowadays, when breakwaters measuring several km are not uncommon around the world, this strategic advantage has somehow faded. But the bay is still marked by this military use, still present, that has somehow constrained the access to the sea as in other cities.
During the XXth century the city has seen the building of an oil refining plant and additional industry, and in the last years there have been projects (as in other Spanish cities) to build new external harbors for civilian ships. The city has been subject to relevant changes in its economic and employment basis, as the arrival of mass tourism to La Manga del Mar Menor (also included in the same large municipality), and during the last decade there has been an urban core requalification project, addressing a relevant cultural heritage and some urban decay problems. The location close to Murcia, the regional capital, has helped to shape metropolitan relations.