Singapore ship series currency notes
The Singapore ship series currency notes (1984-1999) is a show of
maritime vessels. The front of the ship notes depict vessels that have plied
the waters of Singapore over the centuries, starting with the merchant craft of
bygone days, and progresses to the modern bulk carrier. The series pays tribute
to the contributions of merchant shipping to the development of Singapore from
an entrepot trading hub to one of the busiest ports in the world.
Singapore ship series currency notes (1984-1999):
Sha Chuan ($1), Tongkang ($2), Twakow ($5), Palari ($10), Coastal
vessel ($50), Passenger liner ($100), General cargo Ship ($500), Container ship
($1,000), Bulk carrier ($10,000).
Singapore ship series currency note
Telok Ayer, the “port” of arrival
Telok Ayer Street was facing the sea shore prior to reclamation. It was
the “arrival port” for those Chinese junks voyaged to Nanyang. Four ancient Chinese
temples were set up by the Cantonese, Teochew, Hokkien and Hakka pioneers along
the old Telok Ayer coast, namely Fuk Tak Chi (海唇福德祠),
Wak Hai Cheng Bio (粤海清庙), Thian Hock Keng (天福宫)
and Fook Tet Soo Hakka Temple (望海大伯公庙).
Cecil Street and Robinson Road stand on the reclaimed land in front of
Telok Ayer street since 1887. The arrival port shifted to Johnston Pier (prior
to Clifford Pier, nickname Red Lantern Pier 红灯码头)
and New Harbour (prior to Keppel Harbour and PSA terminals).
Cecil Street c. early 1970s. Credit NAS
For those who took
steamships and anchored outside the Red Lantern Pier, they would carry their
luggage, walk down the gangway onto a transition barge, and board a bumboat to
shore. Those suspected from being affected by communicable disease would arrive
at St John’s Island for quarantine.
Boon Tat Street (Japan Street) and Cecil Street junction, 1941. Credit: NAS
During my growing up years, Indian and Malay roadside hawkers set up
stalls in the evening at both sides of Red Lantern Pier. My father and I would
enjoy a cup of teh susu under the starry sky and sea breeze. Life was simple.
Happiness was found in simplicity.
Road side hawkers setting up stalls beside Clifford Pier. 1950s. Credit Jane Hall
The revolving beacon from Fullerton lighthouse shone at the surrounding
buildings periodically. I always admired lighthouses because they symbolise a
ray of hope for seafarers.
Fullerton lighthouse on top of Fullerton Building, 1958. Credit SPH photo, NAS.
Telok Ayer Basin was next to the pier. Chinese called it No. 4 gate (四号码头). Breakwaters
sheltered the basin from open sea. The basin
was a calm and safe haven for lighters. Many Hokkien coolies lived at coolie keng
(coolie quarters) inside those shophouses on Cecil Street. For survival, they
formed “bang” to protect their respective interest. Teochew coolies settled at Cha
Chun Tau (柴船头) at the mid-stream of Singapore River where
Clarke Quay is today.
Telok Ayer Basin or No. 4 Gate (四号码头) c.1970s. Postcard photo.
Singapore River was “colourful” in the past. It had a foul stench and was
black like kopi-o during low tide. It became brownish similar to teh-c when
raining. The water was adorable like green tea during high tide. That was the
time for us to dive into the river.
Differences between Tongkang and Twakow
During the foundation years, Indian boat builders came with the British
East India Company and built small Indian Tongkang. They were propelled using
paddles and wooden poles. When Chinese business flourished in the second half
of 19th century, Chinese ventured into wooden boat business and constructed
larger tongkang and twakow. As tongkang grew in size, the Cavanagh Bridge at
the mouth of Singapore River limited them from entering. They usually berthed
at Kallang River or Beach Road near the Kallang River mouth.
Wooden boat yard at Kallang River. Credit Chin Kang Huay Kuan
Chinese tongkang has 40% more cargo capacity than the Twakow. Tongkang
is about 20m length, 6m width and 4.5m depth. They have slightly rounder hull
and double-ended bow influenced by South India design. They travelled
international waters to Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia either towed by tugboat or
rigged with wind sails. As two-way trips would take weeks, sleeping quarters were
provided for the crew.
During the Japanese occupation period, the military government ordered
the boatbuilders to construct more tongkangs to transport tin, logs and other goods
from Indonesia and Malaya. The Japanese set high quality standard for boat
building which generated positive influence after the war.
What we usually saw at Singapore River and Telok Ayer Basin are Twakows.
They are about 15m length, 5m width and 3.8m depth. They are flat bottom in
order to gain useable space for cargo. I believe the ancient Chinese junks (sha
chuan) designed for beaching provided some inspiration. In addition, Twakow has
flat bow and stern, similar to those Chinese junks which ferried waves of China
immigrants to this part of the world. Twakow operated near coast within port
limit mainly because of its low freeboard.
Red bow twakow berthed at Cha Chun Tau (Clarke Quay). Photo from Internet
Initially they were moved by paddles and poles just like the Indian
tongkang. When technology became more affordable after WW2, they were either
towed by tugboats or engine-powered. They grew in size to 200 ton, ten time
increase from the Indian tongkang’s era.
Their bows are either Red or Green. Red for Teochew and green for Hokkien. Twakow
is “tua-go” in Teochew, “tua-gor” in Hokkien. Cantonese called them “big-eye
rooster” (大眼鸡) because there are a pair of eyes at the bow
to recognise their ways home.
Pinisi, Parari and the Bugis and Makassarese
Bugis are seafarers from Sulawesi. They travelled to Singapore on their
distinctive boats known as perahus. They
brought with them spices, specialised sea and forest produce gathered from the
islands of the Malay Archipelago in exchange for goods. Pinisi is the latest
evolution of perahus.
Makassarese traders are also seafarers from Sulawesi. They sailed with
Palari from Sulawesi, a type of Indonesian sailing-vessel for transporting
goods and people in the 20th century. Palari are equipped with pinisi rig which
carries 7 to 8 sails on two masts. They ceased to come to Singapore after WW2.
Palari berthed at Kallang River. Credit NAS
Opening of Suez Canal is an important milestone
The opening of Suez Canal in 1869 was an important milestone for
Singapore maritime trade. The New Harbour at Telok Blangah was robust enough to
receive large steamships. Cargo tonnage increased many times than before. Very
soon, Singapore developed into a port city and became the no. 7 busiest port in
the world in early 1900s. Maritime trade continues to be Singapore’s lifeline
up to today.
Steamship arrived at New Harbour. Photo shot at National Museum of Singapore
Prior to emerging into New Harbour, Telok Blangah was home to Orang
Laut who came from the Malay archipelago centuries ago. It renamed as Keppel
Harbour in the early 20th century and evolved into today’s PSA terminals.
The flagstaff on Fort Canning Hill and Mt. Faber speak a lot about
Singapore’s maritime trade. Not long after the founding of modern Singapore,
boats from the eastern and western part of the world anchored outside the esplanade. The flagstaff
on Fort Canning Hill provided pertinent information on boats’ arrival,
departure, identity, location and etc. With the development of New Harbour, the
flagstaff on Mt. Faber did exactly the same.
Flagstaff on Fort Canning
With warehouses set up along the banks of Singapore River, lighters
became the key asset to bridge the seagoing ships and godown by the river.
Lighters played an important role in supporting the domestic economy.
New Harbour served as force multiplier, enabling Singapore to receive
larger steel ships and connect the world in a more powerful manner.
International trading firms, warehouses, Malaya railway, factories, logistic
hubs and etc. were built along the southern coast and extended to Pasir Panjang
and Jurong. Today, more than 130,000 ships call in the Singapore port annually.
The development of the Seaplane in Singapore
Seaplane, or flying boat, was an amphibious aircraft which can fly in
air and sail in water. The Singapore’s seaplanes were developed for the Royal
Air Force after WW1. They evolved from Singapore I, Singapore II to Singapore
III in the 1930s. The Singapore III version, powered by 4 Rolls Royce engines, served
as maritime patrol craft. The Royal New Zealand Air Force piloted them against
the Japanese during WW2.
Seaplane Singapore Mark III, 1941. Credit Wikipedia
Singapore III were berthed at Kallang River within Kallang Airport
premises. A slipway was constructed for them. Kallang Airport, a short distance
from town, was formally open in 1937. It was branded as the best airport among
UK and British colonies. It sits on Kallang Basin, home to Orang Kallang. At
around late 1920s, Orang Kallang were resettled to Kampung Rokok and Kampung
Koo Chai, the upper reach of Kallang River. Some moved further inland to Kampong
Melayu (renamed as Jalan Eunos Malay Settlement), a new Malay kampung established
by Mohamed Eunos Abdullah.
The defunct Kallang Airport
Shipyards at Kallang River vicinity
Tongkang and Twakow were built by wooden boat yards at the banks of
Kallang River. There were repair shacks set up along Beach Road, under the
Merdeka Bridge, as well as Pulau Saigon and Kim Seng Bridge at the upper reach
of Singapore River.
Shipyards at Tanjong Rhu were more modernised and high-end. Vessels such
as high-speed patrol craft, warships, launches, tankers and tugboats were built
and repaired at Tanjong Rhu shipyards. The British’s Vosper Thornycroft was the
most established one. By the 1980s, most of the shipyards had been relocated to Jurong as the government had begun its plan to clean up the waterways.
The first Fast Patrol Craft built by Vosper Thornycroft Shipyard at Tanjong Rhu was launched in 1969. Credit SPH picture, NAS
End of life for wooden lighters
Singapore had about 3,000 wooden lighters during its heyday. In 1983, there
were only a few hundred of them relocated to Pasir Panjang. Today, only a few
of them are left and are countable on one hand. The PSA container terminals
have a great impact on those conventional lighters and made them redundant.
It is similar to when the digital cameras resulted in Kodak declaring bankrupt,
and smart phones which replaces low-end digital cameras. In the 1980s, lighters
waved goodbye to the once golden era. They were either sunk near Semakau island
or burned into ashes on the island.
Workers inspected wooden boat at the shore of Pulau Semakau. Ashes of another boat can be seen near field. Credit Geoffrey Benjamin
Witnessing the land reclamation of Southern
When I lived in 141-B Hill Street, the coast nearby was my playing
field. Large steel ships anchored outside Clifford Pier and Queen Elizabeth
Walk. The reflection of light from the sea at night was like floating dragons
I witnessed the sea beside Nicoll Highway became reclaimed lands in the
1970s. I used to jog along the vacant land in the early 1980s with my Beach
Road Camp colleagues while serving my NS there. Soon after Hotel Mandarin, Pan Pacific
and Oriental became the icons of Marina Square. In early 1990s, Suntec City and
the fortune fountain added to the shopping arena.
In late 1960s and 1970s, land reclamation work began in Marina Bay
which includes the Telok Ayer Basin. Marina Bay became one of the favourite
outing spots filled with bowling alley, restaurants and entertainment. I took wedding
photos in the Marina Bay Garden some 30 years back.
Marina Bay Garden was one of the hot spots for shooting of wedding photos
of the old waterfront – Life is always flow
The old waterfront is now a blend of 3 rivers and the coast. The
Singapore River is probably the most decorative and is always providing
lifeline for Singaporean. It supported our economy for one and a half century.
It turned into an entertainment hub after the waterway clean up. Since the 2000s,
its role has changed into a fresh water reservoir, providing portable water to
Life is always flow.
View of the fresh water reservoir (former coast) from the top of Marina Bay Sand
Twakows are beautiful architecture which were built without any design
drawing. They are a fusion of wisdom, science and craftmanship. I do not think
we can find something identical in design and construction method at other parts
of the world. The combination of the river and Twakow is really Uniquely
Singapore which disappeared for about 40 years.
In the name of moving ahead with time, we gain some and we lose some.
Singapore River with Ellenborough Street flats in the background. The scene of Uniquely Singapore had disappeared 40 years ago.