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Singapore Table of Contents



In 1988 the port of Singapore was the world's busiest in terms of shipping tonnage (396.4 million gross registered tons), just ahead of Rotterdam. Singapore was also a major transshipment hub and a global warehousing and central distribution center. In 1988 more than 36,000 vessels arrived in Singapore, up 6 percent from the previous year. The 150 million freight tons of cargo handled by the wharves and oil terminals represented an increase of 16 percent over the previous year.

Ships of more than 700 lines linked Singapore and the region to some 600 ports worldwide. The port area was administered by the Port of Singapore Authority, a statutory board responsible for the provision and maintenance of facilities and services and for the control of navigational traffic in the port. Operations were continuous, round the clock and year round. As a member of the International Maritime Organization since 1966, Singapore kept abreast of international developments in shipping and adhered to international conventions adopted under the organization's auspices. The five port terminals operated by the port authority had about fifteen kilometers of wharf, which could accommodate vessels of all sizes. The Tanjong Pagar Terminal was the port's main gateway for containerized cargo. It had ten container berths, supported in 1988 by a fleet of twenty-six quay cranes, sixty-seven "transtainers," seventeen van carriers, and other types of heavy moving equipment. The seven container freight stations were all equipped with closed-circuit television to enhance fire safety and cargo security. A new billion-dollar container terminal with five container berths, four multipurpose berths, support facilities, and storage space for 8,500 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) was being developed on a nearby island. The first berth was scheduled to be operational by 1992.

Keppel Wharves, the oldest conventional gateway, handled mainly containers and bulk cargo, such as cement, vegetable oil, and rubber. With four kilometers of sheltered deep-water berths, Keppel Wharves could accommodate twenty-two ocean-going vessels and three coasters at any one time. Pasir Panjang Wharves was also a conventional gateway with facilities for coasters, lighters, barges, and ocean-going vessels. It had three deep-water, ten coastal, and forty-six lighterage berths. Sembawang Wharves handled primarily high-volume homogeneous cargo such as timber and rubber. Equipped with five berths, Sembawang also handled containerized and bulk cargo. Jurong Port, developed principally to serve the industries in the Jurong Industrial Estate, had twelve berths.

Singapore's merchant fleet ranked fifteenth among the principal merchant fleets of the world. In late 1988, its 1,243 vessels totaled 7.33 million gross registered tons and included 156 general cargo ships, 150 oil tankers, 74 bulk carriers, 49 container ships, and 12 passenger vessels. There were two vessels above 100,000 gross registered tons: a very-large crude carrier and an ultralarge crude carrier.

Singapore also was noted for its ship-repair industry, the beginnings of which dated to colonial times. In 1968 the government turned the former British dockyard into the Sembawang Shipyard and built it into a commercial success.

Three major yards--Keppel, Sembawang, and Jurong--in which the government held a controlling stake, dominated the industry, accounting for about 90 percent of the S$1.1 billion business in 1988. Many privately owned yards, of which the largest was Hitachi Zosen, split the remaining 10 percent of the business.

In 1989 the four major shipyards employed some 70,000 workers, about 40 percent from overseas, mainly from Malaysia, Thailand, and Bangladesh. Despite the booming business of the late 1980s, the shipyards faced problems of rising labor costs and government restrictions on importation of labor. As a result, a joint venture between Keppel and a shipyard near Madras, India, was given government approval in 1989, and the industry was exploring the possibility of joint-venture projects in other neighboring countries. Government strategists reportedly favored an eventual merger between Sembawang and Jurong--which would overtake Keppel to become the largest ship-repairing group--as part of a move to consolidate the industry and begin directing it toward a less labor-intensive future.

Data as of December 1989

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Singapore Table of Contents