ICONIC LANDMARK: It's the oldest operational dockyard in country
KUCHING: ONE of the city's historical landmarks and a name synonymous with the heritage and culture of Sarawak, the Brooke Dockyard, turned 100 years old on Thursday.
The dry dockyard, next to the Kuching district mosque, is now the oldest operational dockyard in the country.
It was built by the third White Rajah, Sir Charles Vyner Brooke, when he realised that he did not have a facility to repair his fleet of boats.
It was declared open by his wife Ranee Muda Sylvia on May 31, 1912 -- the same year the Titanic sunk.
Sylvia, in her autobiography Sylvia of Sarawak, described the opening as " ... the Chinese and Malays had gone crazy with excitement and activity. They plunged into the water with ropes between their feet, they swarmed upon the platform laughing and screaming to one another instructions and wishes of goodwill.
"Vyner's speech was spoken, but unheard ... we were on the border of hysterics."
The dock has seen much in its 100 years, from repairing wooden hull sailboats to steel hulled boats, from cannon carrying man-of war to high speed gunboats.
In the early 1960s, at the time of the "Indonesian Confrontation", the dry dock played a key role in repairing and returning to action quickly all types of military vessels.
Its main role was still in the repair of government vessels. It had, by then, also accepted work to repair non-government vessels.
From 1985 to 1998, Brooke Dockyard went through a phase best described as a "challenging period".
The mainstay of its business, building and repairing ferries, dried up when the government privatised the ferry services in the state.
The company, Brooke Dockyard and Engineering Corporation, "lost its direction" and was forced to look for new businesses elsewhere.
It was time for change. The dockyard was "rotting" and the company was on the brink of bankruptcy.
The new management then took the bold decision to depart from the traditional ship repairing and shipbuilding business into fabrication work for the oil and gas industry.
In 1997, it secured its first oil and gas contract -- to build the jacket and topside for Petronas Carigali.
From that day on, the focus of the dockyard had been fabrication work and today, it has made itself relevant in the highly demanding industry.
To date, Brooke Dockyard has built 15 offshore modules, 10 substructures and four offshore living quarters and its multi-national clients include Petronas Carigali, Shell, Talisman, Murphy Oil and Exxonmobil Exploration and Production Ltd.
All its fabrication work are done on its Sejingkat yard, a 8ha site strategically located at the deep water front at Sejingkat near the new Senari port.
In 1999, the rated capacity was only 300 metric tonnes and the heaviest project undertaken was the building of a 120 metric tonnes helideck.
Despite this new business, Brooke Dockyard still maintained its traditional business of shipbuilding, but this time, building high-speed and state-of-the-art boats.
The dockyard now has a workforce of 400 whose skills cover a wide range of expertise in engineering and project management to giving a complete and integrated service under one roof.