From a small port in Boat Quay to a world leader: 10 facts about Singapore's port

Container ships docking in Singapore.
Container ships docking in Singapore.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The $3.5 billion expansion of Pasir Panjang Terminal, which was opened officially on Tuesday, will ramp up Singapore's container handling capacity by more than 40 per cent.

To be fully operational by the end of 2017, it will also have state-of-the-art facilities such as automated yard cranes.

Singapore's continued investment in its port capabilities has also landed it the "Best Seaport - Asia" award for the 27th time, at the 2015 Asia Freight, Logistics and Supply Chain Awards held on Wednesday. Here are 10 facts about the port of Singapore:

1. World's busiest transhipment hub

Singapore's strategic location and connectivity with other ports make it an ideal hub for containers to be shipped here, before being sent onward to their next destination on another vessel. The Republic's port is connected to 600 ports in over 120 countries.

2. World's second busiest port

Singapore ranks behind Shanghai, having handled a total of 33.9 million containers in 2014, otherwise known as TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units). This is a 4 per cent increase from 2013.

3. Port terminals around the island

Singapore's seven main container terminals are in Tanjong Pagar, Keppel, Brani and Pasir Panjang. There are also two multi-purpose terminals at Sembawang Wharves and Jurong Port, which handle specialised cargo ranging from steel products to heavy equipment. At Pasir Panjang, there is also an automobile terminal dedicated for cars.

4. A mega port for the future

All container terminals will be consolidated in a mega port in Tuas by 2040, which will be able to handle 65 million TEUs every year. By 2027, the container terminals in the city and Brani will move to Tuas, with those in Pasir Panjang to follow by 2040.

5. How it all started

In the 19th century, the British set out to create an entrepot in Singapore to challenge the Dutch maritime dominance in the region. British ships were prevented from trading at Dutch-controlled ports or were charged high fees if they were allowed to. Founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew has said that "Singapore's raison d'etre was its port".

6. A hive of activity

A vessel arrives or leaves Singapore every two to three minutes, according to the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA). There are also about 1,000 vessels at the Singapore port at any point of time.

7. First in many ways

Built in 1972, Tanjong Pagar Terminal is the first container port in South-east Asia. Singapore's port is also the first in the world to have handled 500 million containers cumulatively.

8. World's top bunkering port

Singapore is the world's top port for ship refuelling, with the total volume of bunkers lifted at over 42 million tonnes - the quantity to fill more than 17,000 Olympic-sized pools, said the MPA.

9. Megaship

In December 2014, the largest ship by container volume, the CSCL (China Shipping Container Lines) Globe called at Singapore's Pasir Panjang Terminal. It can carry 19,100 TEUs. Comparatively, the MV Nihon, the first container vessel which docked in Singapore in 1972, carried just 300 containers.

10. Automated yard cranes

Automated rail-mounted gantry cranes will be used for the first time in the Phases 3 and 4 expansion of Pasir Panjang Terminal. These yard cranes are operated remotely from a control centre and can stack containers with the help of computers, sensors and cameras, thereby saving manpower and increasing productivity.