Engineer who led construction of floating platform 15 years ago recalls the challenges

DSTA Programme Director Tan Hian Nam (right), project lead for the development of the Marina Bay floating platform, and Principal Engineer Lim Yoke Beng. PHOTO: DSTA

SINGAPORE - Searching for space to hold the next National Day Parade (NDP) after the National Stadium closed in 2007 and contending with Singapore's land scarcity, parade organisers turned to a radical new idea - a parade on water.

This idea required the team behind it to build a platform capable of accommodating the scale of NDP celebrations, as well as mass sports and spectator events, said Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) programme director for naval systems Tan Hian Nam, who was the project lead then.

The floating platform has hosted 11 NDPs since 2007 and has become a popular venue for its waterfront views and the unique ability to showcase air, land and sea elements.

As such a project had never been done in Singapore, the team took inspiration from similar structures in Japan to design a set of 15 interlocking pontoons to form a floating platform.

With only 13 months to go before the first NDP rehearsal, the team was in a rush against time and environmental conditions, including wind, sea and waves, to complete a project that should have taken about two years, Mr Tan said.

The platform has lasted three times longer than the five years it was meant to. It will soon be torn down to make way for the NS Square.

Mr Tan said the platform's construction was one of the most demanding engineering challenges that he had undertaken, but also one of the most rewarding ones.

He said: "I can tell you that nothing beats the feeling of witnessing NDP successfully taking place at the platform for the first time.

"While I am definitely sad to see the platform gone, I am heartened to know that it is making way for something bigger and even better for all Singaporeans and residents."

The platform has lasted three times longer than the five years it was meant to. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

DSTA senior programme manager Alvin Wee, who is involved in the NS Square project, said the upcoming development will serve not only as a purpose-built venue for future NDPs, but also as a unique community space with educational areas that tell the story of the country's defence. 

"We hope that in time, it will become yet another iconic venue for our people to share common experiences and celebrate the Singapore story," he said. 

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