SINGAPORE: A masked man charges forward on the deck of a vessel, knife in hand.
"Put down your weapon or I will shoot!" a sea marshal instructs him.
"Bang!" The sound rings out as the sea marshal fires off two shots from his sub-machine gun. The masked man falls to the ground, motionless.
This is just one scenario that could potentially happen on board a vessel, and one that the Republic of Singapore Navy’s Accompanying Sea Security Teams, or ASSeTs, is trained for.
ASSeTs act as sea marshals, and are specially trained to deal with various kinds of threats from the sea, such as piracy, human trafficking and terrorist attacks.
With 70 per cent of the world’s global maritime economy transiting through the Singapore Strait, ASSeTs represent a key component in safeguarding the country against maritime threats.
Last year, the team conducted 585 checks on board vessels in Singapore’s port, to ensure they are free of hostile elements.
This number has seen a gradual decrease over the last decade, due to the advancement in capabilities such as data analytics, and a whole-of-Government approach to bring together information from different agencies such as the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority, Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, Singapore Civil Defence Force, Singapore Customs and Singapore Police Force.
Lieutenant Colonel Nick Neo, Commanding Officer of the 180 Squadron, said: "The need to continue conducting boarding operations is to ensure that the deterrence message is delivered loud and clear to the shipping community and (to tell) potential terrorists to reconsider any attempt to strike Singapore."
REAL OPS FOR NSMEN
Apart from regulars and National Servicemen, the team contains several Operationally Ready National Servicemen, who are also entrusted with the task of executing boarding operations.
"NSmen are significant to 180 squadron because they can augment our regular teams to conduct live boarding operations,” LTC Neo said. “We will prepare them whenever they come for ICT. And conducting live boarding ICTs is something that NSmen feel are very meaningful to them."
NSmen have to go through a comprehensive refresher training, which includes mastering the use of lethal and non-lethal weapons, and how to board ships using a Jacob ladder.
Said Lieutenant Mervyn Low, an NSman ASSeT team leader: “This role that we do is pretty demanding in terms of what we need to know and physical (fitness). Being able to be in the front line means I’m physically capable and mentally ready to perform all the ops, so we feel quite proud to be part of the team."