Merlion gets free spruce-up from German firm

Equipped with a full set of harnesses, he was hanging upside down, Spiderman-style, more than 20m above the ground.

Being afraid of heights is not an option for Mr Muhammad Sufian Abdul Ghani, 24.

It is part of his job to abseil from tall buildings and structures to clean them.

And for the past four days, he has been part of an eight-man crew hired by international firm Kärcher to clean the Merlion at Sentosa.

They are expected to finish cleaning by today.

Said Mr Sufian: "I am not afraid of heights. I was a firefighter with the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), so I have been trained to do this."

The project, which started on Monday, is part of the company's first corporate social responsibility initiative in Singapore to mark the country's golden jubilee, and is being done for free.

The German cleaning equipment supplier had previously cleaned other iconic attractions such as the 38m tall Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, and the 93m Statue of Liberty in New York.

Mr Klaus Puehmeyer, chief executive officer and managing director of Kärcher South East Asia, said it was challenging cleaning the 37m-tall Merlion.

He said: "The statue is partly covered with emission soiling and algae.

"The body of the Merlion is unlike natural stone, thus the type of nozzle and water temperature has to be fine tuned accordingly.

"Special attention also needs to be paid to the scales, which cannot be cleaned directly in order to prevent damage to the LED lighting.''

To remove the stains and algae on the Merlion's surface, technical specialist New Hock Soon, 45, who supervised the project, said they used Kärcher high pressure cleaners to spray hot water (70 deg C) at high pressure. No chemicals were used as part of the company's eco-friendly drive.


He said: "For the more hollow areas, where the surface is thinner, we would have to adjust the angle of the nozzle and the water pressure to prevent possible damage to the structure."

He said the men would start cleaning from the top of the Merlion and work their way down.

Mr Puehmeyer said cleaners like Mr Sufian are well prepared for the job.

All abseiling cleaners undergo an extensive training programme to ensure their safety and to equip them with the technical skills for the job.

He added that the cleaners are also required to wear protective goggles and waterproof gear to protect themselves from the hot water.

For Mr Sufian, being part of the project was a dream come true.

He said: "I feel honoured as a Singaporean to be part of this project. I want the Merlion to be as clean as possible for fellow Singaporeans and tourists to admire," he said.

The Merlion will fully reopen after the unveiling at around 6pm today.

This article was first published on July 10, 2015.
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