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The Port of Singapore

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The Port of Singapore

The port of Singapore is one of the biggest in the world. Currently, the port ranks second in the city-state behind Shanghai. A special feature of Singapore is that it is at the same time a city as a sovereign state. The reasons for this are to be found in the city’s history, which has always been connected with the port and is characterised by trade.

Geographically, Singapore consists on one main island, three bigger and 58 small islands, but it is repeatedely extended by artificial land reclamation. Here is also the most southern point of the Asian mainland and due to a position not far from the first degree of longitude north, one almost reached the equator.

History of Singapore

Singapore already existed in the third century, although at that time it was still Temasek. The name comes from the Javanese and the island was at that time an outpost of the Srivijaya Empire.

Early Singapore was an important trading city, but lost influence in the following time. The port first appeared internationally in the late 13th century and the famous Chinese navigator and merchant Wang Dayuan in the 14th century also used the facilities of that time. In the following centuries, however, trade was limited to Malaysia and China.

When in 1819 the British trade agent Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles founded a branch office, Singapore was already a rather insignificant port and the island was only populated by a handful of fishing families. In 1824, the British East India Company bought the entire island and continuously developed it into a trading base.

The first step for this was the foundation of the so-called Straits Settlements. We are talking about settlements along the roads of the seas, which is a collective term for British locations along the important Strait of Malacca. Spices were shipped via this route for many years and besides Singapore, Malacca and Penang were also important points. The port of Singapore developed as an important station for sailing ships as well as for the emerging steam navigation and ensured the supply of coal.

Singapore soon advanced to the capital of the Straits Settlements and became together with those in the year 1867 the British crown colony. With this status, the importance compared to simple colonial areas was underlined. The peculiarity of Singapore is, of course, its situation below Malaysia and at the southern end of the former Indochina.

From here, it is not far to the prospering states of South-East Asia as Vietnam, Thailand or Indonesia and also the connections to China, Australia and Europe are considered as ideal. The name Singapore already existed at this time and was also used by the British. The meaning refers to the Sanskrit word for lion, so that there is also talk of the lion city. Already at the end of the 19th century, the port of Singapore was one of the most important in the world, which was mainly due to the trade with China. After the Japanese briefly occupied the islands during the Second World War, independence from Great Britain followed in 1963, initially in a federation with Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak, and since 1965 as a completely independent state.

In the following years, Singapore was considered (contrary to its name) as one of the “Tiger States” and became an industrial state. In addition, the port of Singapore continued to grow and soon developed into one of the central economic factors.

The policy of the state of Singapore stands for free trade. It is a member of the ASEAN free trade zone and has also signed corresponding agreements with the EFTA states as well as India, Japan, Australia, China, South Korea, Taiwan and many other important states. Also important for the city’s economy are biotechnology companies and the financial sector.

Importance of the Port of Singapore

In view of the enormous extension of the port area, it is difficult to speak of a uniform port of Singapore. In fact, there have always been different facilities located on different islands. The area that today forms the harbour of Singapore is mainly located in the southwest of the main island as also some islands in front of it that are located further to the south.

The length is approximately 30 kilometres. Characteristic for the port of Singapore is the exact division into areas that include general cargo, bulk cargo and fish as well as oil, petrochemical products but of course also container handling and passenger shipping including cruise ships.

The biggest freight port is the Port of Singapore, also the Jurong Port, Keppel Harbour, Serangoon Harbour and the Boat Quay as also the Singapore Cruise Center are to be mentioned. If one takes all mentioned ports together, in total, the biggest port of the world is originated with a share of approximately half of all worldwide oil transhipments.

Also remarkable is the infrastructure that is available to both the port of Singapore and the city. Changi is one of the most important and largest airports in Southeast Asia and road traffic within the city is also considered excellent. Direct road connections via bridges lead to Gelang Patah as well as Johor Bahru in Malaysia. Rail transport is available, but is not important for the port of Singapore.

The port of Singapore in figures

The figures around the port of Singapore are impressive. Year after year, 130,000 ships reach the metropolis of millions, with around 1,000 ships always being handled simultaneously. When it comes to large freighters, there is still capacity for 300 ships – all at the same time.

The quay at Singapore’s largest port is 15.5 kilometers long with 52 berths for container ships and 190 cranes. In Jurong there are another 32 berths on a length of 5.6 kilometres. The Tuas Megaport is planned for the middle of the 21st century, which will replace the current Singapore port and will be opened in phases from 2021.

The silhouette of the city is impressive, providing a picturesque backdrop for the 300 or so crane installations and the rest of the infrastructure. At 725.1 square kilometres, the city area is roughly the same as that of Hamburg, although the population density is much higher.

Organisation of the Port of Singapore

The port of Singapore is organized by the Maritime and Port Authority of the city state. This authority is regarded as particularly strict, particularly in the perception of environmental regulations, and insists on compliance with the pollutant regulations of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), which came into force at the beginning of 2020.

Among other things, Singapore is also investigating whether incoming freighters have sufficient technical equipment, and laboratory samples from the ship’s tanks are also commonplace.

In the waters around Singapore in particular, heavy fuel oil will no longer be burned, but instead will be run on low-sulphur fuel. Within Asia, the port of Singapore is the most important place for refuelling ships, so the influence in this area is enormous.

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