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Keywords:

  • Singapore;
  • river;
  • urban;
  • renewal;
  • eviction;
  • lighterage

This paper examines the causes and impact of the “evictionr” of the lighterage industry from the Singapore River in 1983. For more than 160 years, the lighterage industry served the traditional Entrepôt trade interests of Singapore from its base along the Singapore River. In 1983, all cargo–carrying lighters operating from the river were forced to relocate to new facilities at Pasir Panjang as a direct consequence of the Singapore government’s broader economic agenda to speedily industrialise and modernise the island state. State policy unequivocally linked slum clearance and city redevelopment with its economic programme. As Singapore’s economy grew and diversified through the 1970s it became less reliant on the commerce of the entrepôt trade, and the lighterage industry, already struggling to compete with technological changes in sea transport, found itself left without a bargaining position and standing in the path of economic development and urban renewal. While the economic success that Singapore has enjoyed over the past several decades seems to vindicate the state’s relentless drive for urban renewal, it often overshadows the impact of the state’s policies on individuals. For those working in the industry, eviction led to social and economic hardship as business declined and individuals struggled to adapt to their new work environment.