Pulau Bukom, also known as Pulau Bukum (毛广岛, புளு புகோம்), is a small island belonging to Singapore that is located about five kilometres to the south of the main island of Singapore, off the Straits of Singapore. The size of Pulau Bukom is about 1.45 km2 (0.56 sq mi).
|Native name: Pulau Bukom|
|Area||1.45 km2 (0.56 sq mi)|
Pulau Bukom is also known as Pulau Bukom Besar, which has a small companion islet to its south called Pulau Bukom Kechil. This companion islet is currently connected to Pulau Ular and Pulau Busing by reclaimed land, making the three of them appear as one large island on satellite imagery.
The island's name is thought to come from the Malay name for a seashell called rangkek bukom, which is wide at one end and tapers to a narrow point, the shape of the island prior to land reclamation. Bukum is said to be the same as hukum, and there is a tradition that the Raja used to try cases on the island, hence the name, probably through the intermediate form berhukum.
Pulau Bukom appears in Franklin and Jackson's 1828 map as Po. Bukum. The island, originally a mangrove swamp, was also a source of fresh water for ships. In 1884, a trader named Gagino established a water company on the island to supply water to passing ships.
The story of Pulau Bukom and the petroleum trade started in 1891 when M. Samuel & Co. of London decided to use Singapore as a base for the import and distribution of kerosene from Russia, and appointed Syme & Co., a merchant and agency house in Singapore, to establish and manage a petroleum tank depot.6 The government rejected their application to store bulk petroleum in town and this led Syme & Co. to establish the facilities on Pulau Bukom. More popularly known as “Freshwater Island” then, Bukom was a suitable alternative because it not only had a deep and sheltered harbour, but its proximity to the mainland allowed better facilitation of the local distribution of kerosene.7
By September 1891, Syme & Co. had acquired 8 ha of land for $3,000 from the owner of the island, Captain Giovanni Gaggino, and thereafter commenced the construction of the petroleum tank depot.8 The storage facilities were complemented by a wharf, pipelines to transfer the oil between ship and tank, as well as lighters that provided bunkering services. Built at a cost of over $60,000, the depot, which had a tank capacity of 4,500 tonnes, opened on 16 September 1892 when its first shipment of kerosene arrived on board the S. S. Murex.9
The island can be reached by a free ferry, operated by Tian San Shipping, from the Pasir Panjang ferry terminal. Access to the island is restricted. Visitors need to have a security pass, issued only for personnel working on the island. The security checks are very tight, and no unauthorized person is allowed to enter the island.