SINGAPORE: There have been five theft or armed robbery incidents in the Singapore Strait this year as of end-February, according to the Information Fusion Centre (IFC), which shares maritime security information among countries. The IFC is hosted by the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) at Changi Naval Base.
The Singapore Strait comprises Indonesian, Malaysian and Singaporean territorial waters. The five incidents took place outside Singapore’s section.
This is out of 270 “maritime security incidents” detected in the same period, in the region covered by the IFC – spanning the Indian Ocean to North Asia, to the northern tip of Australia.
These incidents include illegal fishing, contraband smuggling, or human migration, among others.
As for last year, there were 34 theft or armed robbery cases in the Singapore Strait, forming part of the 113 such cases in the entire region, the centre said.
This was among the overall 1,919 maritime security incidents picked up in the region last year – the bulk of which were miscellaneous maritime incidents, including mechanical issues or capsizing.
While collecting information about such incidents as they happen, IFC also aims to relay the information to different international partners and enforcement agencies to guard maritime safety.
It currently has 100 links with partners in 42 countries.
Information sharing is partly facilitated by naval officers from participating countries, who are deployed to the IFC as International Liaison Officers (ILOs).
The RSN’s Lieutenant Colonel Lester Yong, who heads the IFC, said: “With ILOs physically present on-site, it allows us this daily communication and understanding of the area.”
“And anytime we need to have more information … then we can touch base with the respective ILOs of the countries, they will call back to their operations centres and whatever linkages they have to get more details. Then they will share with us,” he said.
Since its establishment in 2009, the IFC has hosted a total of 182 ILOs from 26 countries. There are currently 20 ILOs from 20 countries at the centre.
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German Lieutenant Commander Christian Hegering, who was deployed to the IFC in February, said: “The big value for us is that we have the connection, we have the understanding of what's happening in this region.”
“Nowadays, no single state has all the possibilities to understand the whole world ... But everything that is happening here might have an influence on security for supply for our population,” he said.
Lieutenant Sok Sal from Cambodia, who is currently the longest-serving ILO, added that though there may be cultural clashes among such an international team, issues are always resolved because the team has the same goal.
SECURITY IN REGIONAL WATERS
Speaking on the sidelines of a visit to Changi Naval Base, Senior Minister of State for Defence Zaqy Mohamad emphasised that security on the seas is important as Singapore is a maritime nation.
He also noted that though there have been more sea robberies in the Singapore Strait, this is outside of Singapore’s territorial waters.
In this case, the IFC plays “an even more important role” in passing on information to the country’s neighbours, he said.
“The quicker we are able to pass (information), the quicker that we work with our neighbours, the closer the interaction and the trust, it makes it better for us too, even though it’s not in our sovereign waters,” said Mr Zaqy.