SINGAPORE: This year’s National Day Parade will feature a maritime sail-past for the first time in two decades as a tribute to Singapore’s frontline workers.
It will take place at 10.50am on Aug 9 at the Marina South Pier, against the Marina Bay skyline that the parade organising committee said depicts Singapore’s development over the years.
“This year is especially important that we stand in solidarity and pay tribute to all the frontliners,” said RSN’s Commander Task Group Lieutenant-Colonel (LTC) Goh Tan.
“Everybody that plays a significant part to help Singapore get out of this pandemic, I consider them personally a frontline warrior.”
The last NDP sail-past, presided by then-prime minister Goh Chok Tong, took place in 2000 at Marina South. It was a “simple” sail-past featuring Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) and Police Coast Guard (PCG) vessels against a less developed skyline, LTC Goh said.
This year’s sail-past will comprise 13 vessels from the RSN, PCG, Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and Maritime Port Authority of Singapore (MPA).
This is a reflection of the whole-of-government effort in securing Singapore’s waters, the organising committee said.
The 13 ships will sail in two parallel columns: The main column for the larger ships and the speedster column for the smaller and swifter vessels.
The main column comprises an RSN landing ship tank, frigate, missile corvette and littoral mission vessel. The PCG’s coastal patrol craft, SCDF’s heavy fire vessel and heavy rescue vessel, as well as an MPA patrol craft complete the line-up.
The speedster column comprises the RSN’s specialised marine craft and combatant craft medium, as well as the PCG’s patrol interdiction boat and SCDF’s rapid response fire vessel.
They will take about 25 minutes to sail east along a 4km stretch of coast from Marina South Pier to Marina Barrage. The speedster column will accelerate towards the end to create a dynamic wave effect.
The vessels, which will sail as close as 1km from land, will also sound their horns for 15 seconds near the end “as an expression of maritime unity and a call for Singaporeans to stand together in solidarity”, the organising committee said.
The ships might be going slower than usual but it does not come without challenges. LTC Goh said the sail-past will take place in a usually crowded waterway.
The RSN will also work with MPA to restrict some of these shipping lanes to ensure the vessels can safely enter and exit, he said.
“We (use) the navy simulator to do a series of tabletop exercises to familiarise ourselves with the area of operations, to run through contingency plans and how we execute the plan on the actual day,” he added.
RSN Captain (CPT) Jane Tan, a navigation officer aboard the RSS Fearless littoral mission vessel that is taking part in the sail-past, acknowledged that it is “a bit scary” that her ship will be operating closer to other vessels than usual.
The 28-year-old said potentially strong winds that could push vessels dangerously close to shore means sailors have to remain vigilant.
“In a traffic jam, for example, you’re able to slow down and pull brakes, but in the waters you can’t pull brakes,” she added.
“So we have to be very careful, especially when ... we’re going at such close proximity with another vessel. We need to know that if this vessel goes slower, we will have to stop soon. We have to keep monitoring the proximity.”
But CPT Tan, whose mother and sister are working as nurses on the frontline, said she is looking forward to the sail-past as a thank you from one frontliner to another.
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“I can’t possibly protect Singapore from the outside if Singapore on the inside is crumbling,” she said.
“While they are fighting their own battles, I cannot give much support but I can only tell them do stay strong and I do admire them for hanging on so far.
“And I think that by participating in this maritime sail-past, at least they get to know what I’m doing and how I can protect the nation from the times they don’t see me around.”
PCG Senior Staff Sergeant Siah Yong Cheng, a staff officer for manpower, admin and logistics, said his family is looking forward to seeing him live on TV during the sail-past.
“It should show Singaporeans that they are safe when all the frontliners are doing their job out at sea,” the 35-year-old said.
“Most people don’t know what’s going on out at sea, so I think it’s a good chance to showcase what kind of vessels we have from all different kinds of agencies.”