SINGAPORE - Back in 1972, Mr Sreevardhanan Vasu Pillai joined PSA as a clerk and was responsible for keeping track of loose cargo that was unloaded at Keppel Terminal in wooden cases and gunny sacks.
In his 45-year career with the port operator, he has seen a "sea change" in the improvements in efficiency and reliability of port operations.
For instance, in the 1980s, an integrated computer system was implemented that streamlined the process of checking and transferring loaded and unloaded goods. Such work was done and recorded manually for the longest time.
Mr Sreevardhanan is now 66 years old and an assistant manager at PSA Singapore Terminal 1's planning department. He and other PSA pioneer workers were commended for their contributions at an event on Monday (Oct 30) at Tanjong Pagar Terminal to mark its 45years of operations.
The terminal, which was the first such facility in South-east Asia when it opened, is winding down its operations as its lease will expire in 2027. It is currently handling ancillary services such as bringing in vehicles.
At the event, which was organised by PSA Singapore and attended by former and current PSA staff, a world record was also set for the Largest Shipping Container Image.
The lion head display measures 128m by 128m, is made up of 359 containers, and took 15 hours to complete. A certificate from the Guinness Book of World Records was officially presented to PSA at the terminal, with guest-of-honour and Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure Khaw Boon Wan in attendance.
Calling it "an end of an era", the transport minister said that despite the impending shift of its core port operations to Pasir Panjang Terminal, Tanjong Pagar Terminal will "always hold a special place in our hearts as Singapore's very first container terminal".
Earlier this year, PSA Singapore relocated all of its 500 staff from the terminal to Pasir Panjang, in a process that involved reskilling and upskilling for its workers.
On keeping the Singapore port relevant, Mr Khaw added: "We have to keep raising our game particularly in harnessing technology to enhance productivity. PSA is testing electric automated guided vehicles, and automated wharf and yard operations at the Pasir Panjang Terminal."
With the Tuas port slated to be operational only from 2021 and fully ready by 2040, Pasir Panjang Terminal will handle the majority of Singapore's shipments for the next two decades.
Mr Fock Siew Wah, group chairman of PSA International, the parent company of PSA Singapore, said: "With the rapid completion of our new terminals at Pasir Panjang, and the development of our future Tuas Terminal ongoing, PSA remains future-ready and committed to maintaining the strong economic contribution of our terminals."
Said Mr Pillai: "It's a very sad thing to see the place where I started going away, but of course we have to look at the future - upskilling our people and leveraging our technology to move forward to serve our clients better."
Correction note: In an earlier version of this story, we said the lion head display measures 128 sq m. This is incorrect. It should measure 128m by 128m. We are sorry for the error.