SINGAPORE: Nineteen years after it entered operational service, the RSS Independence - one of the first warships wholly designed and built in Singapore - retired on Wednesday (Mar 8).
The Fearless-class patrol vessel, along with its sister ships, was built under a collaborative effort by the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN), the Defence Technology Community and the local defence industry. The vessels have been operational since 1996.
The RSS Independence was commissioned by then-Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Tony Tan Keng Yam on Aug 22, 1998, to take over the operational duties of patrol craft RSS Independence to safeguard Singapore’s maritime interests and to maintain its territorial integrity.
The RSN said the RSS Independence will be remembered for its role in rescuing five fishermen from their capsized fishing trawler in the waters off Pedra Branca on Sep 22, 2015.
Former crew of the RSS Independence take a wefie for memory's sake. (Photo: Xabryna Kek)
The navy added that RSS Independence had “valiantly taken on the duties and was involved in numerous operations at sea, as well as in maritime surveillance, patrol and escort operations”.
It also flew the RSN flag high in a number of important bilateral and multilateral exercises, such as Exercise Malapura, Exercise Singsiam, the Singapore-Indian Maritime Bilateral Exercise and the Western Pacific Naval Symposium Multilateral Sea Exercise.
The RSS Independence has flown the Singapore flag high in various important bilateral and multilateral exercises. (Photo: Xabryna Kek)
Speaking at the ceremony, Chief of Navy, Rear-Admiral (RADM) Lai Chung Han, paid tribute to RSS Independence and to the generations of its crew members.
He said: "In her years of service, RSS Independence was an integral part of the RSN’s frontline force which protected Singapore’s territorial waters and safeguarded our sea lines of communication, staying true to her motto 'We Will Defend'.
"The success of RSS Independence would not have been possible without the unwavering dedication, professionalism, tenacity and sacrifice of the generations of officers and crews who have served onboard."
RSS Independence was decommissioned at a sunset ceremony at Tuas Naval Base on Wednesday evening. Officiated by RADM Lai, the ceremony marked the start of the progressive handing over of duties from the patrol vessels to the new Littoral Mission Vessels (LMVs).
RSS Independence (L) with its successor LMV Independence (R). (Photo: Xabryna Kek)
The name RSS Independence along with its operational duties will be handed over to the LMV Independence during a commissioning ceremony on May 5, to be held in conjunction with the RSN’s 50th anniversary celebrations.
"The LMVs are faster, more versatile, and equipped with sharper capabilities to further strengthen the RSN’s effectiveness in seaward defence, and the protection of Singapore’s sea lines of communication," the navy said. The eight LMVs that were added to the navy’s fleet will be fully operational by 2020.
Also present at the decommissioning ceremony were past and present crew members of RSS Independence as well as senior RSN officers.
The RSS Independence's name and operational duties will be handed over to the LMV Independence. (Photo: Xabryna Kek)