COMMERCIAL enterprise throughout the Far East called for audacity and skill in seafaring. These qualities were abundantly needed in the Archipelago, which, with its four large islands and thousands of small ones, measures over 5,000miles from west to east and 2,000 miles from north to south. From the earliest days shipping was a prominent activity of the inhabitants and in the modern era the great expansion in the region's foreign trade and the agricultural developments associated with it were made possible only by the introduction of economical forms of ocean-going transport. But the shipping links with distant markets and sources of supply served only part of the needs. The physical constitution of the region meant that ordered government, competent administration and the economic specialisation necessary for efficient production all depended upon an ample provision of coastal and inter-island shipping services. One of the main centres, Singapore, was essentially a great shipping junction where the ocean-going traffic from all over the world met the local shipping of the Archipelago.