By Edgar Su

Singapore’s port is one of the busiest in the world and has long been a key part of the island’s economy. I took some time last year to document the shipping hub, and was surprised to see how closely life in Singapore is linked to it.

Walking along the coast on a fine day, you’ll see countless ships anchored in the sea around the city-state. At East Coast Park, where many leisure activities take place, I saw a group of school girls conducting soccer training as tankers lined up to make a call at the port. It was quite a peculiar scene – in the foreground daily life was going on, but in the backdrop a massive industry was working around the clock to get cargo shipped or vessels refueled.

Even from atop Singapore’s iconic Marina Bay Sands Hotel – a modern landmark that houses some of the most lavish entertainment for visitors spending top dollar – you have a full view of vessels waiting silently for their turn to enter the port.

According to its Maritime and Port Authority, Singapore sees around 140,000 calls from vessels every year. Its many terminals work around the clock to serve them, often handling 60,000 containers a day.

From a height of more than 10 storeys, through the glass bottom of a crane driver’s cockpit, I could see trucks lining up in an orderly fashion to deliver the unloaded containers as a group of managers sat in control rooms monitoring every aspect of the operations. As soon as a container was unloaded, the radios blared instructions for the next one on the list. Time is money, and there was no time to waste.