Tuesday, March 01, 2005
Armed escorts from the Singapore Navy will guard selected merchant ships and cruise liners plying the city-state’s busy waters as part of efforts to prevent terrorism, the defence ministry said on Monday. The Accompanying Sea Security Teams (ASSeT) scheme will be launched sometime in March, a ministry spokesperson said. The Straits Times newspaper reported Monday that up to eight navy personnel capable of running a commercial vessel in an emergency will board selected ships which might be threatened because of their cargo. The team will include a Seaman, an Engineering Specialist and a Radio Operator. They will don bullet-proof vests and carry weapons like carbines and pistols but have no powers of arrest, which will rest with the Police Coast Guard. “We don’t call them sea marshals, which is more aggressive,” Colonel Chng Teow Hiang, commander of the navy’s coastal command, told the daily. “This is a team giving you added security while transiting, not going on board to search and turn tables,” he said. The report noted that about 1,000 vessels transit the Singapore Strait daily, ranging from massive tankers and container ships to ferries and barter trading boats linking Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. According to a study published by Singapore’s Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, the global maritime industry is vulnerable to a major terrorist attack. Singapore is one of the world’s busiest port cities. Terrorists could use ships to transport operatives, equipment or weapons, raise money through legal or illicit trade, and attack larger vessels like the USS Cole, which was hit in Yemen’s Aden harbor in October 2000, it said. Oil and chemical tankers could be rigged as floating bombs, the report said. It also said the exposure of a black market in nuclear weapons technology has heightened fears that terrorist groups like Al Qaeda could get their hands on weapons of mass destruction and move them by sea to attack major cities.
Republic of Singapore Navy Ship: RSS VIGOUR (92) (commissioned 1991)