Photo: thedrive.com

On Monday, 3 Feb, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen announced that there are plans by the Maritime Security Task Force (MSTF) to restructure and enhance its assets in the quest to curb sea piracy.

Mr Ng responded with a written reply to a parliamentary query by Christopher de Souza who is the Holland-Bukit Timah Group Representation Constituency, “That review is expected to be complete in the next few months.”

The extra measures will prove useful in order to curb the rise in the incidence of sea piracy and robber in the Singapore Strait, Mr Ng added.

In 2009, the task force of the Singapore Navy was formed and it has worked together with maritime agencies and law enforcement to safeguard Singapore’s waters through boarding and escort operations as well as daily patrols in the Singapore Strait.

According to Mr Ng, the number of sea robbery and piracy “fluctuates considerably from year to year”. The number of cases differed in different years, with 31 last year, 104 in 2015 and 48 in 2014. In the seven years of the past ten years, the average number was 12 incidents per year.

In order to combat pirates, the Singapore navy cooperate daily with local maritime agencies such as Maritime and Port Authority and Police Coast Guard under the jurisdiction of Singapore Maritime Crisis Centre.

The battle against armed robbery and piracy necessitates “strong collaboration among all regional partners” because Singapore Straits actually exclude Singapore territorial waters, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan stated in a separate written reply to the Non-Constituency MP Dennis Tan.

There were 12 occurrences in the strait in the past two months.

Mr Khaw remarked that “As none of these incidents occurred within Singapore territorial waters, no investigations were required of our agency. If an incident happens within Singapore territorial waters, the Singapore Police Coast Guard (PCG) will investigate where necessary.”

Singapore has also been working together with regional countries such as the coast and navy guards of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia when dealing with piracy outside of Singapore waters, such as transnational security threats, robbery and maritime piracy, Mr Ng further explained.

“Most recently, at the 14th Malacca Straits Patrol (MSP) Joint Coordination Committee meeting, the navies of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand revised the MSP standard operating procedures to enhance the region’s ability to tackle sea robbery in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore,” he added.

To boost information exchange processes, regional countries including Singapore are committed to utilise a new set of indicators to allow identification of anything suspicious during the investigation on sea.

“Beyond regular conduct of sea and air patrols under the MSP, joint training and exercises as well as information sharing strengthen understanding and collaboration to deal with maritime incidents together,” Mr Ng elaborated further.

He concluded that Singapore is looking to share more intelligence and information with Indonesia and Malaysia being that all robbers and pirates in Singapore Strait have been operating beyond Singapore’s territorial waters.

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