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May 22, 2018

Where was the old harbour in Singapore?

A painting of the harbour in Singapore, 1887


Singapore Harbour Board - Lessons of the Past One Hundred Years´╗┐


The story of Singapore's port

Singapore's port is not just one of the busiest in the world, it's also one of the oldest.  Elsen Teo walks you through it's history. [Source:  Straits Times, 20 February 2012].

400s:  Singapore is known to sailors as Temasek or "sea town" in old Javanese.  The island has an active port where goods, such as pottery and jewellery, are traded.

1300s:  Chinese sailors chart the entrance to a deep harbour in the south of Singapore.  They call it Long Ya Men or 'Dragon's Teeth Gate.  Today, it is the entrance to Keppel Harbour.

1819:  Sir Stamford Raffles sets up a trading settlement along the Singapore River.  It becomes one of the business ports in the Far East.

1852:  As the Singapore River becomes overcrowded with ships, companies begin to set up wharves and warehouses in the south of Singapore.

1899:  The two largest dock companies in New Harbour merge to form the Tanjong Pagar Dock Company in 1912, the government of Singapore expropriates it and forms the Singapore Harbour Board to manage it.

1900:  New Harbour is renamed Keppel Harbour to honour Admiral Sir Henry Keppel, who made his name by eliminating piracy in the waters off Singapore.

1964:  A statutory board of the Government is formed to take over the Singapore Harbour Board, it is called the Port of Singapore Authority (PSA).

1965:  Jurong Port was opened to serve the newly built factories there.

1972:  Singapore becomes only the second courtry in Asia after Japan to open a terminal to handle container shipping, in which cargo is moved in large metal containers.  Tanjong Pagar Terminal opens with three berths.

M.V. Nihon, carrying 300 containers from the Netherlands, is the first container ships to pull in on June 23.

1982:  Containerisation is a success:  Singapore becomes the world's busiest port based on shipping tonnage.

1996:  The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore is formed to regulate the local port industry, protect Singapore's maritime interests and promote the country as an international maritime centre.

1997:  PSA is corporatized and renamed PSA Corporation Limited.

2000:  Pasir Panjang Terminal is officially opened.

When Stamford Raffles first landed in Singapore in 1819 by sea, there was no proper harbour in Singapore.


Stamford Raffles landed in Singapore on 29 January 1819.  Travelling on the Indiana with a squadron that included the schooner Enterprise, he anchored at St John's Island at 4.00 pm on 28 January 1819 before setting foot on Singapore island the next day.  The site on the Singapore mainland where Raffles landed is marked with the statue of Raffles (photos above), which is located by the Singapore River behind Parliament House.
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Old Photos of the Singapore Harbour

The archived photos are shared on this blog with the courtesy of the National Archives of Singapore and the National Library Board.


Chinese coolies loading coal, Keppel Harbour, 1938


 Long Ya Men (Dragon's Tooth Gate)


Six hundred years ago, the great Chinese explorer Admiral Zheng He used a rock shaped like a tooth as a navigational marker when he voyaged through the Singapore Strait.

Long Ya Men, or Dragon's Tooth Gate, was located just offshore where Labrador Park is today and helped steer ships through Keppel Harbour.

In the mid-19th century, however, the British blew up the rock in order to widen the channel for large trading vessels.

The obliterated rock was recreated as a 7.5m-tall replica in Labrador Park.  The replica represented an important part of Singapore's maritime history.  [Source:  The Straits Times]



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