In end-April, I have the opportunity to visit the Central Fish Market with a group of young people to study the operations of the Central Fish Market. The public can freely visit the Central Fish Market as long as they exchange their identification card for an entry pass. Through a recommendation from a friend, she mentioned there's a distributor company - Hai Sia Seafood that conducts tours around the Central Fish Market for the public. I signed up for it on their website and the application was responded by a friendly staff of Hai Sia Seafood. The tours are so popular that I noticed all visits are fully booked till end of the year. The official starting time is 1.30am and will end around 3am.
On the 28 April night, I rendezvous with the rest at Boon Lay MRT at 11.30pm. From there, it's a 15mins taxi ride to the Central Fish Market. Some taxi drivers may not know the exact location that well, so it will be necessary to direct them to turn into Jalan Tepong (as shown in the map below) and thereafter into the Fishery Port Road. The taxi is not able to enter directly into the Central Fish Market and we have to alight from there (usually in front of the Jurong Ice Works building). The ride cost S$9. A strong smell of fishes greeted us the moment we alighted from the taxi.
We have to join in the queue to exchange our IC for entry pass. The security will ask the number of people, and it will be a single pass for the group. Once pass the security, straight ahead is the Central Fish Market. The map below is from Street Directory. Do note the Central Fish Market is the large building in there, next to the sea.
The Central Fish Market are opened daily (including Chinese New Year holidays), but they are closed once a week on Mondays.
Beyond the security, we walked towards the port area. Do note that photography and video recording are not allowed around the port area. Ensure the camera is pointing towards the fish market and not towards the harbor or the sea. If not, an angry security personnel will come over and request you delete all photos and videos taken.
The Central Fish Market was bustling with activity and we just walk around the area till we saw the Hai Sia Seafood Building (located at 35A Fishery Port Road). We got there a bit early at 12.30pm.
At the second floor of Hai Sia Seafood, there is a good view of the Central Fish Market with all its activity. Forklifts were constantly going around, carrying buckets of ice, loading and unloading of seafood products.
As there is an hour more to go, we decided to continue exploring the place. There is actually a coffeeshop to chill at the 'C' shape building on the map. It is just directly on the right hand side past the security area.
Overthere, you can get drinks and food for supper.
It is 1.30pm and we rendezvous in front of Hai Sia Seafood. Our guides for the day is Jun Ting and Melvin. There are around 30 visitors today. At the background in the picture, is the shop by Hai Sia Seafood that operate till 6am in the morning. It is here that visitors are able to purchase smaller packs of seafood and fishes after the visit to the Central Fish Market.
One of the staff brought us into a cold room which is at -18 degree celsius. It is a cold freezer where seafood products are kept.
We walked towards the unloading area where seafood products arrive from the port. Most fishes are unloaded from the ships, but a few are air-flown in. The air flown ones are usually salmon.
We thereafter went into the fish market to look at the typical lot size of a stall.
We were shown a box with 4 salmons, imported from Norway.
The entire market is a hive of activity. We have to watch where we stand as there are trolleys full of fishes going around.
There is a second floor area where we can catch a good overhead view of the market.
There is also a viewing gallery bridge connecting from one end of the market to another end.
The supply chain of the fishes are as below:
Fisherman - Central Wet Market - Hawkers - Consumers.
Fisherman - Central Wet Market - Distributors - Restaurants.
A lot of transaction in the market are relationship-based. There are no fixed price for the fishes and it is how well the relationship between the central wet market stalls and the buyers that determine the price. The seafood products in the central wet market are sold in bulk, making it difficult for consumers to buy from them. Hai Sia will purchase it from the central wet market and thereafter sell it to customers and consumers.
The people working in the central fish market are mainly elderly in their 50s or 60s. The processes are manual and all transactions are done in cash. As the guide shared with us, it has worked fine for them for decades, where they have brought up their family based on what they have done. From the visit, it is very clear that the younger generation will not want to be involved in this trade due to the timing (permanent night shift), tough work environment (smell, physique work, etc). But the demand for seafood products are always high in Singapore due to our country affluence.
There were news that the central fish market is going to be upgraded soon with air conditioning. So it is good to visit this market before any changes. There's another fish market to the north which is located at Senoko.
We are grateful to the guided tour provided by Hai Sia Seafood. The guides that brought us around looked quite young, which is a rarity in the fishery industry in Singapore. I salute to the good efforts provided by the people who work tirelessly through the night in providing us with fresh seafood products during the day.
Below is our group photo taken by Hai Sia Seafood.