Harbours are fascinating places to witness the increasing interconnections the world is experiencing. A casual walk along the southern coast of Singapore, overlooking the harbour, provides just the experience.
For miles, ships are parked in the sea of Singapore. At night, their lights shine lightly along the horizon, while during the day their long shapes paint the horizon with narrow rectangles of maroons and reds. Awaiting their turn to offload and onload at the harbour, the writing along their sides hints at their port of origin. Hamburg Süd, Odfjell, 中国远洋 – Germany, Norway and China all meet in Singapore harbour.
Singapore is the world's second busiest port in terms of total shipping tonnage after Shanghai. Every day, millions of tons of furniture, cars, clothes, food are offloaded and unloaded along the city state's decks, managed by over 150,000 people employed across 7,000 companies. Every year, 7% of Singapore's total GDP is created in the huge warehouses and decks at the south and east of the city.
Ships from Europe, the Americas and Oceania gather here. In the port, thousands of containers are lifted in the air, containing the essential or superfluous elements for people all around the world. A Dutch ship might be travelling from Hong-Kong to Brazil with a stopover in Singapore, transporting thousands of remote-controlled cars assembled in Guangdong in China to excited children in Bolivia. These cars might have been constructed thanks to the trip undertaken by a ship registered in Australia, who earlier in the year sailed from Japan to China, filling a good part of its containers with electronic equipment designed by Japanese engineers. And too, a British-owned ship might have transported a new expatriate's luxury car from the United States to Singapore.
It is around harbours that one feels that the world is becoming increasingly small, and that distances are being slowly eliminated. More than cargo airports, which are often inaccessible to the general public, harbours are the physical face of globalisation.