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Floating shipyard platforms in Singapore to face prohibitive land occupation fees


ST_20151228_STSHIPYARDA_1943403Singapore’s modern economy relies since the Seventies on heavy industry, offshore rig construction.
A flourishing shipbuilding and repair business in Singapore was established and nurtured in order to face an unemployment crisis that had followed the quit of the British. However, with current oil prices getting lower and lower, the industry whose fortune depends on high oil price, lives in uncertainty. One-third of the Chinese shipyards are being severely affected by the crisis and failing.
In addition to this crisis, as there is no more waterfront land available, Singapore shipyards are asked to pay a very heavy price for the land they occupy, with an additional fee for every metre of the peripheral water edge – including that of jetties and quays built and owned. Such measures are worsening shipyard efficiency.
Some of the larger shipyards have ventured overseas, but building in foreign soil is hard and extremely costy and neither local nor international banks, each for different reasons, lend money to this aim.
An alternative solution is to build scalable floating platforms for shipyard operations: any size or shape could be configured according to the shipyard’s needs, and construction would be faster and more cost-effective than the bureaucracy to reclaim land.
Designed for a lifespan of 50 or 100 years, such assets would probably cover the life cycle of the offshore rig industry in Singapore. After exhausting the industrial activity, even the largest floating platforms could be dismantled into smaller ones, relocated everywhere else in coastal areas, and converted to different uses such as a floating condominium or hotel.
Floating platforms for shipbuilding are not just a conceptual hypothesis: in South Korea floating docks instead of dry docks on land are already being used, and more efficient floating cranes covering free-ranging and larger effective areas are used instead of mega gantry cranes, which only serve the area between the rail tracks. A 213m-long floating container port in Alaska is still in service 33 years after its launch in Washington. Monaco has its own floating berth for cruise ships, which also doubles as a breakwater: this structure has been used for more than 12 years. The British Navy as well commissioned a 200m by 28m floating concrete jetty for servicing naval vessels in Scotland.
All vital elements of a shipyard are perfectly workable when mounted on floating structures: such a solution may save the most iconic industrial activity in Singapore as well as enhance shipbuilding even when in lack of coastal land.


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