The tanks at Tanjong Berlayer

22 12 2014

The impressions I have long held of the Tanjong Berlayer area were ones formed by the road journeys to the area of my early years. That came at the end of the 1960s when the squat cylindrical tanks at the end of Alexandra Road would be the signal that I was close to my journey’s end.

Dawn over the land on which the Maruzen Toyo / BP refinery had once stood, a landscape once dominated by oil tanks.

Dawn over the land on which the Maruzen Toyo / BP refinery had once stood, a landscape once dominated by oil tanks.

An aerial view of Tanjong Berlayer in 1966, showing the BP refinery (source: National Archives of Singapore).

An aerial view of Tanjong Berlayer area in 1966, showing the BP refinery (source: National Archives of Singapore).

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The BP refinery storage tanks (photo online at https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/753/20557489428_aaea44065e_c.jpg.

The end of the same journey is today greeted by very different landmarks. The tanks, emblazoned with what had been the recognisable British Petroleum (BP) shield, are no longer there, having belonged to a refinery that has since been shut. The land on which the refinery had operated on has been empty since the end of the 1990s, and it is now a host of other structures, including that of the 42 storey PSA building, that is what catches one’s attention.

PSA Building and not the oil tanks, is one structure that will now catch one's attention at the end of Alexandra Road.

PSA Building and not the oil tanks, is one structure that will now catch one’s attention at the end of Alexandra Road.

The opening in 1962 of the small 28,000 bpd refinery at Tanjong Berlayer, Singapore’s second, coincided with the industrialisation efforts of the early 1960s and came on the back of Shell establishing a refinery on Pulau Bukom in 1961. The refinery had started its operations, not as a BP run one, but as one operated by the Japanese partnership of Maruzen Toyo, supplying fuel to the nearby Pasir Panjang Power Station. What was significant about this was that it represented the first major Japanese industrial investment in Singapore. The Japanese interests in the refinery did not last very long however. It was sold to BP in June 1964, just over two years after it had opened.

An aerial view of the Maruzen Toyo refinery at its opening in 1962 (photograph online at http://www.kajima.co.jp/).

With the redesignation of the area’s land use preventing BP from extending its lease in the longer term, it decided to pull-out from the refining business in Singapore in the mid-1990s. Operations at the refinery stopped in 1995, with BP maintaining the site as a storage facility for a few more years before returning it to the State in 1998. Subsequently cleared, the site had been left empty until today, awaiting a transformation that is promised as part of the future Greater Southern Waterfront. And, as with the Keppel Bay area on which the former repair docks of the Harbour Board and later Keppel Shipyard were sited to the site’s immediate east, the transformation will erase what little has been left to remind us of a time and a place we seem only to want to forget.

A fire-fighting exercise at the BP Refinery in 1968 (source: National Archives of Singapore).

A fire-fighting exercise at the BP Refinery in 1968 (source: National Archives of Singapore).

The site today.

The site today.

The landscape will eventually be dominated by the futuristic structures of the Greater Southern Waterfront.

The landscape will eventually be dominated by the futuristic structures of the Greater Southern Waterfront.

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Singapore welcomes the Jewel

3 07 2010

After a voyage of more than four months starting in February 2010, the Jewel of Muscat, a reconstruction of a 9th century Arab sailing dhow has arrived in Singapore. Having arrived in Singapore waters early this morning on the final leg of her voyage which started in Penang, she made her appearance to a small but eager crowd that had gathered in the drizzle at about 4.30pm under tow with her fore sail hoisted.

Members of the public welcomed the Jewel of Muscat at Tanjong Berlayer.

A small crowd had gathered in the drizzle to welcome the Jewel of Muscat.

A TV8 News crew awaits the arrival.

The voyage from Oman using traditional navigational methods retraces part of what must certainly be something to marvel at – the voyages taken by Arab traders in the 9th century, past Singapore to China. The construction of the 18 metre replica of a 9th century dhow is in itself a marvel, being constructed entirely without the use of nails. The planks of the Jewel are held together with coconut fibre, each a perfect fit to ensure watertightness, and protected by goat fat mixed with lime. The reconstruction of the Jewel of Muscat was painstakingly undertaken in Oman and the ship has been sailed here as a gift from the Sultanate of Oman to Singapore.  Based on reports, the Jewel of Muscat would be the centrepiece of Resorts World Sentosa’s Maritime Xperiential Museum which is scheduled to open in 2011. More information on the Jewel of Muscat can be obtained on her website.

The Jewel of Muscat arrives under tow with a fore sail hoisted at around 4.30 pm.

The Jewel says hello.

Two MPA Fire-Fighting Vessels on standby to welcome the Jewel.

The Jewel moving past the throw of the fire monitors.

Another view of the Jewel moving past the throw of the fire monitors.

Views of the Jewel of Muscat’s arrival to the shores of Singapore:

And finally ... seen in the company of the very grand 200' M/Y White Rabbit Echo at the Marina at Keppel Bay.