Why is Singapore so important

Singapore - from pirate hideout to container port

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Singapore - from pirate hideout to container port

In 1819 the English agent Thomas Stamford Raffles founded a branch of the East Indian trading company in Singapore, which at the time handled all trade between Great Britain and Southeast Asia. The then hardly populated island became one of the largest commercial centers in Southeast Asia. Today one of the largest ports in the world is located in the city-state.

Left: Map of Singapore

Singapore is a small city-state that is located on a large and a few small islands off Malaysia. The country is only around 700 square kilometers and would fit 50 times into the area of ​​Germany. For comparison: the city of Hamburg is slightly larger than Singapore at 750 square kilometers. And the two cities have something else in common, namely a huge container port.



What is a container actually?

Photo: 40-foot container

Containers are standardized containers. They come in two sizes, which are named after their English dimensions, namely 20-foot containers (TEU) and 40-foot containers (FEU). The larger ones are 12.19 meters long, 2.44 meters wide and 2.60 meters high. The smaller ones are half as long. There are currently around 15 million TEUs worldwide.

A large part of all internationally traded goods are shipped with these containers. Because they are all the same size and shape, they can be loaded very quickly and are easy to stack. They are transported with the help of trucks, trains and ships.

Photo: Singapore container terminal

A wide variety of things can be transported in them, from frozen ice cream to metal parts and clothing, almost anything is possible. Anyone planning to move overseas will also have to rent a container for their furniture. For example, 10,000 jeans fit in a 20-foot container. There is space for thousands of such containers on large container ships.

Incidentally, the standardized container is only 50 years old, but its invention laid an important foundation for economic relationships around the globe that are now known as globalization.

But how did Singapore become one of the most important port cities in Southeast Asia?

Photo: This statue shows Thomas Stamford Raffles and is located in Singapore.

200 years ago the island was only inhabited by a few Malay families and was otherwise a pirate hideout. Everything changed when the British Thomas Stamford Raffles arrived in 1819, an agent for the East Indian trading company. Raffles decided to build a base for his company here. As Singapore was right on the waterway between China and Europe, it quickly became an important port city. All of that was a long time ago, of course, and at that time large sailing ships were anchored here.

The tiger states

Photo: Singapore's skyline

But how did the city-state develop into a modern economic center? During the Second World War, Singapore was captured by Japan, but returned to Great Britain after a few years. Singapore has been an independent country since 1963. It is one of the so-called tiger states, which also include South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Within a few decades they made the leap from developing country to industrialized nation as their economy developed rapidly. The ports in Singapore made a decisive contribution to this.

Singapore's ports in numbers


Photo: Panoramic view of the port facilities in Singapore.

The world's most important port for container ships is Singapore. Almost 30 million TEU containers were shipped here in 2008, so each such container comes by twice a year on average. In addition, half of the crude oil that is transported around the world is handled here every year. In 2008 there were 166 million tons of oil.

A total of 131,000 ships docked in Singapore this year, including 20,600 container ships and 19,500 tankers. In the various ports of Singapore there are 1000 berths for ships and many more at anchorages. 3000 cranes ensure that the freighters are loaded and unloaded quickly.

Photo: Pasir Panjang Port Terminal in Singapore.

Due to the well-developed economy and international contacts, many people from different parts of the world moved to Singapore. The city is therefore a melting pot of nations and religions. You can read more about this in the articles linked below.

If you are interested in ships, you should also have a look at our WAS IST WAS Volume 25 Ships.


Text: Liane Manseicher, January 28, 2009; Photos: Merlion: Gerold Kogler, GFDL; Card: pd; Stamford Raffles statue: formulax: cc-by-sa 2.0; Skyline: Mcaviglia: cc-by-sa 3.0; Harbor panorama: Kroisenbrunner: cc-by-sa 1.0; Container Terminal: Calvin Teo: cc-by-sa 2.5; Container ship at the terminal: Lukacs: cc-by-sa 2.5; Pasir Panjang Terminal: pd; 40-foot container: Martini171: GFDL.

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