Seapost -> Maritime marks of Singapore

Maritime marks of Singapore

By Geoff Ellerton

The collector of the maritime postal history of Singapore has a diverse range of opportunities to explore, reflecting the city's strategic position at a historic maritime crossroads for both passenger and trading ships and as a major naval base (formerly Royal Navy when Singapore was a British colony) and dockyard. Shipping highways radiate out from Singapore: north to Hong Kong, Japan, China and trans-Pacific to North America, east and south to Australasia, west to Europe and Africa, via the Indian sub-continent and the Middle East.

The city-state of Singapore is today the world's busiest and most efficient port, and its post office, somewhat unusually for a sophisticated modern city, continues to honour the UPU Paquebot regulations, so that paquebot cancels from both cruise ships and freighters remain relatively easy to obtain.

Cover with Singapore Paquebot cancel
Fig 1 Cover from P&O's Aurora world cruise, with circular "Paquebot Singapore 08 Mar 2006" cancellation.

More locally, Singapore is a major transhipment port for cargoes to the rest of South East Asia, notably Malaysia and Indonesia - the Spice Islands of yesteryear. As a consequence Singapore has also operated historically as a distribution and sorting centre for between South East Asia and the rest of the world. Sorting could take place on shore, through local shipping agents or in sea post offices on board ships, notably between Singapore and Penang, Malaysia, for mail to and from India and Europe, and between Singapore and Hong Kong, for mail to and from North Asia and North America. These particular marine sorting offices were established on board British ships of the P&O Line.

Postcard cancelled by straight line Singapore Paquebot mark (Hosking type 3393)
Fig 2 Postcard from Manila to USA cancelled "Singapore DE 2 1909" with straight line Singapore Paquebot mark (Hosking type 3393) and "Singapore to Hong Kong B 4 DE 1909" marine sorting mark.

Singapore was inevitably also a key port of call and centre for other major maritime nations with Asian colonial and trading interests, notably the French, German and Dutch, whose ships also served as mailboats and whose postal markings feature frequently on mail to, from and through Singapore.

Cover cancelled by double circle 'Ligne N Paq(uebot) Fr(ancaise) no 7 27 Feb 05'
Fig 3 Picture postcard of Boat Quay, Singapore to Hanoi (Tonkin, now Vietnam) with 3c Straits Settlements stamp cancelled by double circle "Ligne N Paq(uebot) Fr(ancaise) no 7 27 Feb 05" used on board the ship "Oceanien" of Messageries Maritimes line.

French mailboats served the French colonies of Indo China as well as major routes to the rest of the Far East. Ligne N linked Marseilles and Shanghai. The postmarks were used as transit marks for mail sorted on board and as obliterators for letters handed to the postal agent on board.

German mailboat cancellations also occur frequently on Singapore-related mail, as Singapore featured prominently on the German liner routes of Norddeutscher Lloyd who were contracted to provide a seapost service on Imperial Mail Steamship routes to, and within, the Far East and Australia. By the mid 20th century Seepost (sea posts) had been replaced by Schiffspost (ship posts, operated and paid for by the shipping company rather than the postal service.)

Cover cancelled by double circle 'Paquebot Singapore 2  4 Oct 56' (Hosking type 3398)
Fig 4 Cover to Germany cancelled by "Deutsche Schiffspost HAPAG / a 12.9.56 / MS Hamburg" and double circle "Paquebot Singapore 2 4 Oct 56" (Hosking type 3398)

The Singapore Paquebot mark has also been seen applied to mail from Japanese seaposts.



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