By the mid-19th century, shipping activities in Singapore intensified with the rapid onset of steamers calling at the New Harbour at Tanjong Pagar. There was great demand for dock (ship-repairing) and wharf (berthing) services and these port functions were undertaken by private enterprises, most notably the Tanjong Pagar Dock Company (1864–1905). By 1899, the company had monopolised port and shipping services at the New Harbour. Despite its growth, the company's facilities had become inadequate and obsolete, much to the grave dissatisfaction of the public. The company's failure to commit to badly-needed upgrading works forced the government to take over ownership by expropriation in July 1905, in the process turning the enterprise into the public-owned Tanjong Pagar Dock Board. Under the board, bold improvements to the New Harbour, now renamed Keppel Harbour (c. 1900), were initiated, ranging from the provision of new docks, machinery and roads to the replacement of old wharves.
A new phase of modernisation for Keppel Harbour was planned under the 1912 Straits Settlements Port Ordinance, which led to the formation of the Singapore Harbour Board (SHB). The new board took over the Singapore property and undertakings of the Tanjong Pagar Dock Board from 1 July 1913. The Ports Bill concerning the formation of the SHB went through two drafts, with the first draft sent to a Select Committee for review. The SHB used its broad powers to oversee the harbour’s expansion and by 1917, had succeeded in making Singapore a “second to none port out East”.
1. Sandhu, K. S., & Wheatley, P. (Eds.). (1989). Management of success: The moulding of modern Singapore (p. 12). Singapore: ISEAS. Call no.:959.57 MAN-[HIS].
2. Lim, R. (1993). Tough men, bold visions: The story of Keppel (p. 37). Singapore: Keppel Corporation. Call no.: RSING 338.762383095957 LIM.
3. The Singapore Harbour Board, 1959 [Microfilm: NL 15150] (pp. 4–5). (1959). Singapore: Printed by Tien Wah Press.
4. Lim, 1993, p. 37; Tanjong Pagar Dock Co., Ltd. (1905, July 3). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. 80 years ago, (1994, April 22). The Straits Times, p. 69. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. The Ports Bill. (1912, May 11). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Huff, W. G. (1994). The economic growth of Singapore: Trade and development in the twentieth century (pp. 139–140). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Call no.: RSING 338.959570094 HUF.
The information in this article is valid as at 2013 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.