Port of Singapore
Review and History

The Port of Singapore is located on the southern end of the Malay Peninsula in Southeast Asia about 30 kilometers southwest of the Port of Johor in Malaysia and about 250 nautical miles north-northwest of the Port of Palembang, Indonesia. Containing Singapore Island and about 60 islets, the parliamentary republic of Singapore's constitution establishes a representative democracy with a president and a prime minister. Since 1959, the People's Action Party has dominated the political process. It is the largest of three surviving sovereign city-states in the world, the other two being Monaco and Vatican City.

Singapore Skyline

Singapore Skyline

Photo by chensiyuan

Most of the residents of the Port of Singapore are of Chinese descent, and the remaining population contains mostly Malays and Indians. The Port of Singapore's official languages are English, Chinese, Malay, and Tamil, and most major religions are practiced in the Port of Singapore (Buddhism, Christianity, Daoism, Hinduism, and Islam). In 2005, almost 4.3 million people called the Port of Singapore home.

Singapore Island is less than 15 meters above sea level, and about two percent of the land is highly productive cropland. Located just 137 kilometers north of the equator, the Port of Singapore is hot and humid. The Port of Singapore has long been an important duty-free trading post for the British Empire, and it is today a major international trade center. It boasts Southeast Asia's most advanced economy, housing major finance and industry sectors.

Port History

Before Europeans settled there, the island that is today the Port of Singapore was a Malay fishing village. The indigenous Orang Laut lived on the surrounding coastline, rivers, and islets.

In 1819, Sir Stamford Raffles led the British East India Company in creating the Port of Singapore trading post on the international spice route. When the company was established, only a few Chinese and Malays and some aborigines lived there. The local heredity chief allowed the company to purchase the land. However, the chief was not the supreme authority, as he was an underling to the sultan of Riau-Johor, Abdul Rahman.

Tanjong Pagar<br>Victoria Dock in the 1890s

Tanjong Pagar
Victoria Dock in the 1890s

Victoria Dock at Tanjong Pagar, a naval and commercial base in the British colony of Singapore.
Photo by Government of the United Kingdom

Against orders, Sir Raffles withdrew recognition of the Sultan's authority and seated the Sultan's older brother Hussein to rule over the Port of Singapore. Hussein validated the sale of the land to the British East India Company despite Dutch protests. The Port of Singapore quickly rose as one of the British Empire's most important military and commercial centers, and it was the Southeast Asian base for British power.

An Anglo-Dutch treaty ceded the Port of Singapore and Malaya to the British in 1824, and all of Singapore Island was given to the British. In 1826, the Port of Singapore, Penang, and Malacca were consolidated as an outlier of India. Called the Straits Settlements, the territory became a Bengal residency in 1830. Two years later, Singapore became the capital of the Straits Settlements.

In 1833, the British East India Company lost both Malaya and its monopoly over trade with China. The Straits Settlements were put under the control of the governor-general of India in 1851, and in 1967, they became a crown colony under the central Colonial Office of the British Empire in London.

Singapore 1900<br>Collyer Quay

Singapore 1900
Collyer Quay

Photo by Photographer of G.R. Lambert

Trade in the Port of Singapore suffered after 1842 when the British developed the Port of Hong Kong. French occupation of Indochina and their development of the Ports of Saigon and Haiphong created further competition for the Port of Singapore. Dutch ports in the Dutch East Indies added to the pressure.

When the Suez Canal was opened in 1869 and steamships arrived on the scene, sea-borne trade in the Port of Singapore began to increase. A period of prosperity began, and construction of Port of Singapore facilities began anew. About five kilometers of wharves were constructed at Tanjong Pagar. In 1921, a naval base was established in the Port of Singapore. When the Malay states became British protectorates, commercial traffic increased in the Port of Singapore.

The need for rubber and tin in the industrializing Western countries eventually made the Port of Singapore one of the largest and busiest ports in the world. When the 1902 Anglo-Japanese alliance terminated after World War I, the British modernized fortifications in Malaya and built a large naval base in the Port of Singapore.

Japanese forces landed in northern Malaya and southern Thailand in late 1941 and quickly took control of the region by both air and sea. By early 1941, they approached Singapore Island. In 1942, the Japanese crossed the Johor Strait. The British surrendered the Port of Singapore and the island in early 1942, and the Japanese held the territory until World War II ended in 1945.

After World War II, the British did not include the Port of Singapore in their proposed Federation of Malaya due to expected protests from the city's large Chinese population. Making the Port of Singapore a separate crown colony in 1946, the Port of Singapore moved toward a constitutional democracy in spite of the communist pressures in Malaya.

Singapore 1900<br>Hongkong and Shanghai Bank

Singapore 1900
Hongkong and Shanghai Bank

Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank next to the Singapore River; opened in 1877, the building has yet to move from its original location at Collyer Quay.
Photo by Photographer of G.R. Lambert

In 1955, an elected legislature and ministers took responsibility for local government in the Port of Singapore with responsibility for all matters but foreign policy and defense. In 1959, the Port of Singapore gained status as self-governing, although Britain still controlled foreign and military affairs.

Since 1959, the Port of Singapore's economy has grown, and its standard of living has improved greatly. Direct foreign investments and government-led industrialization created a modern economy that emphasizes urban planning, education, and industry.

In 2006, a study by Craig Murphy ranked the Port of Singapore as the world's 5th richest country (in terms of GDP), and in 2008, the Republic of Singapore held over $174 (US) billion in foreign exchange reserves. In 2009, the Economist Intelligence Unit said that the Port of Singapore was the world's tenth most expensive city and the third most expensive in Asia after Tokyo and Osaka.

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