Marina Barrage looks at system to allow luxury yachts into bay

By Patwant Singh, Channel NewsAsia | Posted: 20 April 2007 1748 hrs

SINGAPORE: Observers say with the Formula One race likely coming to Singapore, the city could be transformed into a "Monaco of the East".

In Monaco, you can watch the street race not only from land, but also from yachts berthed in the water.

And Singapore too could see big boats berthed at the Marina Bay area, which will be converted into a freshwater reservoir.

The last time there was a race on the waters of Marina Bay, it involved the F1 Powerboats.

Soon, the same area will see another competition, this time, it will be keel boats.

It is known as Match Racing and is the type of race that Singapore took part in at the recent Asian Games in Doha.

Following Singapore's stellar performance, Singapore Sailing wants to ride on the winning momentum.

"We are actually embarking on purchasing a fleet of match racing yachts that will be used specifically for match racing in Singapore. And one of the events that we are planning... will be a local match racing competition. We are planning to have it at the Marina Barrage, probably in the third quarter of this year," said Low Teo Ping, President of Singapore Sailing.

Six boats will be purchased to help sailors prepare for the coming SEA Games in Thailand.

And even bigger boats... luxury yachts measuring up to 30 metres long, could be seen on the Bay, in future.

So this calls for some careful planning.

"Marina Bay will be a freshwater reservoir... in order to get boats in we will have to consider either a boat lift or lock, and these are not trivial propositions... these are things certainly from the authority point of view we are considering," said Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Community Development, Youth & Sports Minister.

"We would also look for opportunities to work with the private sector to enable such facilities to come about and for such facilities to be executed in a cost effective and viable way," he continued.

Channel NewsAsia discovered that if the lock gets the go-ahead, it is estimated to cost some $20 million and would likely be at the East side of the Barrage, closer to Kallang.

Boats approaching the Barrage from the sea would go through a gate, entering what is known as a salt-exclusion chamber.

The chamber would be sealed, and the higher density salt-water will be pumped out.

More freshwater will be added to raise the water level in the chamber by at least a metre, to match the level of the freshwater reservoir.

Once the levels are matched, gates on the other side will open and the boat will enter the reservoir.

But there will be still a limit to the size of boats entering the Bay area, because of the depth or height restrictions.

Some vessels, like sailboats with large masts, will still have to stay out of the Bay waters.

But that will not stop them racing.

Come early 2009, the Volvo Ocean Race will make a stop-over in Singapore for 10 days.

And during that period, the boats, berthed at Sentosa Cove, will also take part in in-port racing, in the open sea, just outside the Marina Barrage. - CNA/yy