The Bumboat ride story

Bumboats, aka lighters, large boats or sea-going barges used in the Malay Archipelago for loading, unloading and transportation of cargoes, supplies or goods, from ship to shore or vice versa. Name originated from the English "scavenger's boat" or "dirt-boat" which carried dirt and refuse, and also ferried foodstuffs to and from off-shore ships. In Singapore, bumboats are also called twakows or tongkangs and were extensively used for transport purposes along the Singapore River, Rochore and Kallang Rivers, and also along the coast of the mainland and the other nearby islands.

Bumboats were in use from the 1600s in Europe, when these were scavengers' boats, primarily dirt and waste carriers, but these vessels also ferried fresh and provisioned foodstuffs to and from ships off-shore. Sometimes called junk-boats, and strictly speaking are not junks, in the present meaning of the word, bumboats in the Asian region have adapted design variations of the original wooden European-style lighters. In its evolution, the lighters in Singapore are different and also called twakows and tongkangs. Before the arrival of motor power, the earlier version of bumboats had sails, others were powered by oars or guided by long poles up the rivers. With "painted eyes" and familiar faces, these lighters were vital to the movements of commercial activity on the Singapore River for more than a hundred and fifty years. The "Clean Rivers Campaign" in 1983, shifted them to Pasir Panjang.