It is not uncommon to see tourists taking a leisurely cruise on a bumboat down the Singapore River. But Singaporeans have, by and large, given such boats a miss, despite a bid by the authorities to promote water taxi services along the river.
Now, a new entrant hopes to shake things up. Water B, which started operations on Jan 1, is offering shuttle services and sightseeing cruises as the second river taxi operator. Singapore River Cruise has been plying the river since 1987.
What Water B hopes to do differently is to get more locals on board by getting businesses along the river to package its cruise services with their offerings. It is also working with schools to provide educational boat tours for students.
"We hope to carve a niche for ourselves by targeting the local market," said Mr Kieu Kim Sen, director of marine transportation services company York Launch Services, which runs Water B. Besides taxi and cruise services, it offers platform boats for special events that can be converted into a floating bar or restaurant if needed, he added.
His firm had won a tender by the Urban Redevelopment Authority last year, in another bid by the authorities to get those who live and work in the area to use bumboats as an alternative mode of transport.
Water B takes over from former operator Singapore River Explorer, which ceased operations on Jan 1 last year after its licence expired. Singapore River Explorer had said the area served by the boats was too small to attract daily commuters.
For now, Water B appears to be testing the waters. Its services, routes and prices are similar to those of Singapore River Cruise.
Its five landing points, marked by red kiosks, are between Jiak Kim Street and Clifford Pier.
For $25, visitors can take a 40-minute cruise on bumboats down the river and around Marina Bay. A shuttle service between the points runs from 8am to 10am, and 5pm to 7pm, at 10-minute intervals. Each ride costs $5.
For now, three of its five kiosks are open during off-peak hours. This is to allow its 70 employees, including ticketing staff, boat captains and deckhands, to familiarise themselves with the work environment, said Mr Kieu. The remaining kiosks will open from next month.
Mr Kieu said the response has been lukewarm so far, but he is hopeful things will pick up.
Water B will add another eight boats to its fleet of 12 by the end of June.
Meanwhile, Singapore River Cruise general manager See Toh Yew Leong said it is operating as usual and "will continue to innovate and adapt".
Without giving details, he said it plans to introduce "integrated experiences" by collaborating with trishaw operator Trishaw Uncle, the Chinatown Heritage Centre, and food and beverage operators along the river.