Floating cities

Few cases practical for Singapore

The concept of floating concrete islands in Singaporean waters is intriguing, but calls for selective application (S'pore is shipshape for floating cities, July 2).

Technically, it is feasible to construct concrete clusters of up to 100 sq km, but providing comprehensive essential amenities like electricity, water and sewage systems over such sprawling areas in the sea could be a nightmare.

First, just as Singapore is constrained by its limited land area, the Singapore Strait hardly offers ample room for expansion.

As one of the world's busiest, most congested sea lanes, it is hard to imagine where a large floating city might be placed without disrupting shipping or infringing on the waters of Singapore's immediate neighbours.

Second, sustaining a large resident population at sea presents significant logistical challenges. Cruise ships are a good illustration of how the provision of potable water, food, communications and ship-to-shore transport can be difficult.

While vessels can dock regularly for provisioning, an offshore floating city would realistically be resupplied in situ, multiplying cost, complexity and risk. Fixed transport links like bridges or tunnels could mitigate this issue, but would defeat the core concept of a mobile floating platform.

Therefore, I see only a few practical-use cases for concrete islands.

One possibility is to treat concrete islands as a direct substitute for shore-extending reclamation, rather than attempting isolated outposts on the high seas. Another would be to restrict concrete islands to industrial uses such as heavy manufacturing, fuel refining and storage, or power generation, which are perhaps a better fit for the infrastructure than residential development.

Paul Chan Poh Hoi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 08, 2021, with the headline 'Few cases practical for Singapore'. Subscribe