The first building block of Singapore's future Tuas mega port has been sent out to sea.
Yesterday, the first of 222 caissons - structures that will make up the wharf of Phase 1 of the Tuas Terminal - was launched on a floating dock from the southern edge of Tuas by Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan, who is also Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure.
It will take a day for it to drift to its destination, where it will be joined by the others over the next three to four years to form the 8.6km-long wharf.
The Tuas Terminal will be developed in four phases over 30 years, with Phase 1 scheduled to be completed by the early 2020s.
Phase 1 of the terminal will be able to handle about 20 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of cargo a year. The entire Tuas Terminal could eventually handle 65 million TEUs of cargo annually - nearly double what Singapore handled in 2014.
Singapore's plan is to move all its port activities to Tuas South from 2027, freeing up prime land in Tanjong Pagar and Pasir Panjang for future residential and mixed-use developments.
Mr Andrew Tan, chief executive of the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), said the reason for Singapore's existence is its port, and it has now to become more efficient, innovative and productive to stay ahead in the game.
The features of the new port will showcase these aspects, he said.
Using caissons to build the wharf structure, for example, is faster than traditional methods like piling. The concrete, watertight, retaining structure will eventually sit on a foundation on the seabed.
MPA engineer Choo Meng Hui said the caissons are also prefabricated on the Phase 1 project site before they are transported out, which contributes to their efficiency. It takes 10 days to build one caisson and the MPA expects to build six a month.
Each caisson is 28m tall, equivalent to the height of a 10-storey HDB block, and weighs 15,000 tonnes, making it one of the largest in the world.
Port waters will, as at current terminals, be managed using next-generation systems that will help vessels avoid congestion and give them the best route to reach the berths safely and efficiently.
Automated port equipment and automated yard cranes will also be key features.
The development of Tuas Terminal will require the reclamation of 294ha of land on the southern edge, for which the MPA will reuse dredged and excavated materials from land construction projects, such as rail infrastructure projects by the Land Transport Authority, as reclamation fill.
This will make up more than 60 per cent of the total fill materials required for the project.
"Reusing such materials, which will otherwise be disposed of as waste, will reduce the quantity of sand fill required for reclamation, thus resulting in significant reclamation-fill material cost savings of about $1 billion," said Mr Tan.