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1983: Cable car tragedy at Sentosa

Seven people were killed in the accident, giving rise to a sense of apprehension towards the then-fledging island resort development.


Major investments had already gone into its development since the formation of Sentosa Development Corporation in 1972. Unfortunately, tragedy struck 10 years later.

Two cable cars plunged into the Sentosa waterway on Jan 29, 1983 after the cable was struck by a rig being towed out to sea at the nearby Keppel Harbour. One of the cars was empty, but the five passengers in the other car were killed. Another cable car oscillated so violently that three passengers were thrown out, of whom only one survived the ordeal.

A gripping rescue mission over the next several hours recovered another 13 passengers who were trapped in four cars - two cars over land and two over water - between Mount Faber and Sentosa. But a total of seven people lost their lives in this accident.

To prevent similar occurrences, the government implemented various measures such as legislating and implementing new height restrictions for vessels entering Keppel Harbour. More than 30 years on, Sentosa has come into its own as a prominent tourist destination in Asia.

1983 was also the year that saw some major corporate actions that eventually led to the formation of some of Singapore’s prominent corporations today.

Keppel Shipyard’s ambitious S$500 million move to acquire The Straits Steamship Company, an established shipping company with substantial land holdings in Singapore, was critical in the creation of Singapore’s largest industrial conglomerate listed here, Keppel Corporation.

Under the Keppel umbrella, Straits Steamship’s non-property businesses were grouped under Steamers Maritime Holdings (Steamers), which later became Keppel Telecommunications & Transportation. The renamed Straits Steamship Land became the property unit known today as Keppel Land.

In 1983, The Business Times also covered how the Monetary Authority of Singapore defended the Singapore dollar from speculators by selling US$50 million through a broker in the foreign exchange market. Looming US interest rates hikes, a fall in the Indonesian rupiah and a potential currency devaluation race in other parts of the world had fuelled rumours about a potential devaluation of Singapore's currency not just in domestic markets, but also in London, Jakarta and New York. That move by MAS, however, quashed such rumours.

The Business Times has been there to report and analyse the most significant news since 1976. Every week, this feature will showcase excerpts from the biggest stories for each year that the paper has been in operation. The full text of all the stories can be found online at