Singapore – Marina in Keppel Bay
The Marina at Keppel Bay in Singapore received the 2010 Asia Boating Award for Best Asian Marina, recognising its growing role as environmental example, and as a hub for sail training in the Lion City
If you ever wanted an example of how to transform a waterfront area, the Marina at Keppel Bay is a great starting point. Used for years as a shipyard, the whole area was rebuilt by its owner, Keppel Land, as a marina offering top-notch services as Singapore’s newest marina. Where once there was the stain of old commercial vessels being towed in and out, now there is a gleaming new marina that trains sailors and where clams now grow.
Three years ago, the Marina at Keppel Bay opened to much fanfare. The marina was awarded Best New Asian Marina at the 2008 Christofle Asia Boating Awards. Three years after its opening, the marina was again honoured with the 2010 Asia Boating Award for Best Asian Marina. Why the fuss?
For starters, the marina has earned numerous certifications that mark it out as a top quality yachting centre. It has been given Five Gold Anchor status by the Marine Industry Association of Australia, a relatively new accolade that was set up to recognise excellence in marina service. The Marina at Keppel Bay is the first Asian marina to win this award. Marinas wanting this certification need to meet high standards in everything from marina design and infrastructure to food and beverage outlets.
The Marina at Keppel Bay also won the Clean Marina Certificate from the MIAA in 2008, just three months after starting its operations. Both of these accreditations are not to be taken lightly – recipients marinas are subject to thorough inspections, as well as “mystery shoppers”, who will quietly inspect the marinas for up to three years after the fact to make sure of compliance. The marina has to be ready to handle fuel spills as well as having proper waste disposal mechanisms, as well as standards with regard to maintenance and refit for yachts.
But the proof is in the pudding. The work of Marina at Keppel Bay to maintain a clean environment has resulted in the growth of corals and the return to Keppel Bay of reef fish and molluscs. In addition to limiting the impact of waste, the marina has had the result thanks to its design. According to Trevor Fong, the general manager, “the marina was constructed based on an ‘open concept’, which means that water is allowed to flow through the entire marina during the change of tides.” The resulting flow-through of water allows nutrients and plankton to enter, and these are essential for the growth of marine life. Fong notes that colourful clown fish have made a home for themselves at the marina.
But aside from becoming a little oasis of sea life in the heart of Singapore’s busy shipping lanes and commercial anchorages, the Marina has also emerged as a major sail training centre, and one of the best qualified in Asia.
In 2008, the marina opened up the Keppel Bay Sailing Academy (KBSA) to promote sailing as well as encourage more Singaporeans to get out on the water. The KBSA is now the only site in Singapore and one of the few in Asia (apart from Sunsail in Phuket) to offer Royal Yachting Association (RYA) sail training. The UK-based RYA certificates are recognised worldwide and are a great way for Singaporeans interested in chartering their own yacht in Thailand to get started.
Although the KBSA was started to add more offerings for nearby apartment owners (many of whom get automatic membership in the marina), the result has been a school that has appeal to nearly all walks of life. According to Trevor Fong, the academy has had over 230 students go through sail training. Past students range from 18 to 68 years old, with American, British, Australian, German, Russian and Swedish students joining the Asian students at the academy. Most have had some sailing experience, though Fong notes that many students are complete novices. RYA-accredited places of instruction are inspected every year to ensure that facilities and instruction is up to standard.
To date, the KBSA currently owns two Beneteau First 40.7s, both of which are available for day charters, which are used to conduct RYA training. The academy offers five RYA courses – Competent Crew (an entry-level course), Day Skipper Shorebased, Day Skipper Practical, Coastal Skipper and Yachtmaster and Coastal Skipper Practical – with student: teacher ratios set at five to one for all practical courses. Students wishing to bareboat charter a sailing yacht are recommended to complete the Day Skipper Practical before safely bareboat chartering.
The KBSA is also the only site of pre-training for the Clipper Round the World races for applicants wanting to join outside of the UK. The Clipper Race has become well-known as the race that pits teams of amateur sailors (with professional skippers) against each other in a circum-navigation race. People from all walks of life have joined the race, but to join a boat, would-be racers need to complete the Clipper course at the academy.
The Marina at Keppel Bay has become the stopover point for the Clipper Race as it comes through Asia on its way to Qingdao. Keppel Land has become a major sponsor of the race, putting its own employees through the training, so it’s no surprise the KBSA would be heavily involved. So far, Australians and Singaporeans have joined the KBSA to get aboard the Clipper Race, thanks to the fact that the KBSA is the only site offering this training in the eastern hemisphere. Fong notes that in addition to the Clipper and RYA courses, the KBSA also has plans to introduce more short courses on sailing soon.
Getting ready for the big boats
The Marina at Keppel Bay, though a fine looking piece of waterfront design and architecture (the marina was designed by Edward Wong, a Singaporean architect and avid sailor who specialises in marinas), is not content to rest on its laurels.
In its relatively short life, the marina has hosted several editions of Boat Asia, the Clipper Race stopover, as well as being the host for the arrival of the Jewel of Muscat (see Sailing with the Ancients). Thanks to the all the foreign accreditations, marina staff have developed working relationships with internationally.
The work of the Superyacht Singapore Association and the Singaporean government in developing the Lion City as a superyacht hub will have a long-term impact on the Marina at Keppel Bay, something that marina staff are already preparing for.
Currently, the marina has berths for up to 75 yachts in wet berths, with berths for yachts up to 250 feet available. Trevor Fong of the Marina at Keppel Bay points out that the marina has a wide turning circle with wide entrance, and finger berths for each individual superyacht. The marina also has the first individual pump out system for each yacht in Asia.
Aside from providing the high level of service needed to earn a Five Gold Anchor rating, the marina also offers all the necessary services for visiting superyachts via liaisons with immigration authorities and the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore.
Anticipating a rise in superyacht visits (as most marinas in Singapore are), the Marina at Keppel Bay is nearing the completion of its second phase of berth expansion, due for completion at the end of 2010. This will see the number of wet berths rise from 75 to 168, with space for megayachts up to 280 feet. The marina is said to be readying for another expansion phase that has yet to be announced.