For ship watching enthusiasts, the Marina Bay Sands SkyPark offers the perfect vantage point. At 200 meters above sea level, the Sands SkyPark has 360° views of the city and the port. And it just so happens that Singapore’s glide path for aircraft passes by the SkyPark. On a clear day, head to the sea facing side of the SkyPark for an awesome view of these vessels.
While Singapore does not produce any oil, it is the world’s top bunkering port. You’ll get a great view of the VLCCs (Very Large Crude Carriers) and the ULCCs (Ultra Large Crude Carriers) carrying oil into and out of Singapore. It’s easy to recognise a crude oil carrier with its flat deck, wide body, and impressive length. These supertankers can exceed 400 metres in length and provide a great yardstick with which to estimate the length of other surrounding ships.
While spotting a massive crude carrier is exciting, you’ll likely see a container ship first. Container carriers are easy to spot because they are usually full of containers. Long rectangular boxes of all colours are stacked neatly onto the decks of their carriers. Like their crude carrier sisters, container carriers can reach large lengths.
The largest container ship, the Emma Maersk, made its first Asian port of call in Singapore. The Emma Maersk can carry 11,000 containers in one voyage. If these containers were placed end to end, they would cover a distance exceeding 60 kilometres. There are plenty of container carriers, each with its cargo destined for Singapore or elsewhere. On a side note, cargo refers to items that travel by sea, but shipment refers to items carried over land.
Speaking of land, if you’re in Singapore at the right time, you might just spot an American Aircraft Carrier sailing in or out of Singapore’s naval bases. The carriers are floating airports which make them easy to identify with their slick shapes, flat tops and steel grey colour. The carrier travels as part of a battle group which includes frigates and destroyers so keep a lookout for the accompanying naval ships.
On the civilian front, look for the cruise ships with their distinctive building-like structures that span almost the entire length of the ship. Many cruise ships carry passengers around Singapore but the ocean-faring ones travel between continents. These ships are tall and often sport colourful brand marks on their funnels and sides.
Because Singapore’s shipping lanes are so busy, the harbour must be kept deep and clear. Silting occurs quite frequently in parts of Singapore’s harbours so every day special ships called dredgers ply the harbour to keep it deep and free of excess sediment build up. In doing so, the dredgers perform an added benefit – they take up this sediment from the shipping lanes, and use them for land reclamation projects.
All ships have names and identification marks, so if you have a pair of binoculars, zoom in on the ship’s name. It’s usually towards the front of the ship, on either side. Try guessing the country of origin from the name. Otherwise look for a flag behind the ship. Several ships fly their country’s flag.
There are also car carriers, ferries, pilot boats, tugs, and an assortment of other sea faring vessels that line Singapore’s coast. Ship spotting is a great activity to do on your own or with a group, so head to the SkyPark and look to the seas.