October 15, 2007
Singapore Strait is the busiest shipping channel on the planet. Three thousand ships pass through the strait every day, and Singapore docks a ship every 12 minutes around the clock. Consequently, the Port of Singapore has developed a traffic separation scheme and traffic information service to instill some order in to what would otherwise be chaos. There are designated lanes for eastbound ships, westbound ships, and deep-draft vessels. Our mission was to cross the various lanes at a 90 degree angle thereby minimizing our time in the strait.
The strait is almost four miles wide at places and as narrow as one mile at others. We chose to cross in an area that is relatively narrow. That gave us less time to dodge and weave around the floating behemoths, but it got us close enough to our destination to make it in before dark.
Although we had no wind, we put up our mainsail to make us visible to other vessels, and we headed out. Totally by luck, it was a relatively slow time. We had to dodge a few tugs with tows and only two large ships. Otherwise, it wasn’t bad – not anything like we had feared.
We had checked in with the traffic information service via VHF radio so that the controllers knew that we were out there (surely we were on all their radars). They couldn’t have done much to help us if we screwed up, but we were somewhat comforted knowing that they were at least aware of our presence. However, the radio became our biggest stress of the day. We had crossed the main strait and were headed west when two ships had a near collision, and it was played out on the radio. We don’t know what those ships were carrying, but any collision of vessels that size is a serious accident. Fortunately the controller intervened and ordered one ship to make a course change that averted the collision. We were very glad that we were not out there at that time.
Thunder storms blew in shortly after we cleared the main strait, and we had rain for the rest of the day. However, the visibility was adequate that we could continue on. At the end of the day, it had taken us 4 ˝ hours to travel 25 miles, but we had survived the infamous Singapore Strait. We were very happy to arrive at Raffles Marina in Singapore.
Follow us to Singapore as we spend a few weeks relaxing there.