On July 21, Singapore launched two types of new high-speed vessels to better counter the growing maritime threats the country is facing.
The Singapore Police Coast Guard (PCG) inducted 11 new patrol interdiction boats (PIBs) and six second generation PK-class interceptors into the service. The vessels were commissioned by city-state’s deputy prime minister, home minister and coordinating minister for national security Teo Chee Hean.
In a speech delivered at the commissioning ceremony and seen by The Diplomat, Teo said that the induction “marks a significant milestone in the renewal and upgrading” of Singapore’s capabilities.
Specifically, the two types of vessels will enhance Singapore’s interception capabilities, allowing them to deal decisively with faster and better-equipped intruding boats before they reach the country’s shores. The PIBs can achieve speeds in excess of 45 knots and are equipped with armor protection and a Stabilized Naval Gun System which can track targets automatically and more accurately. They also have beaching capabilities so that PCG officers can pursue targets on shore if needed.
The second generation PK-class interceptors, meanwhile, will be operated by the PCG’s elite Special Task Squadron that deals with aggressive and fast sea-borne threats. To counter these threats, the new interceptors will boast improved maneuverability and speeds in excess of 55 knots – a significant improvement over current vessels which have top speeds of 45 knots.
These upgrades were required, Teo said, amid a complex maritime environment and growing threats to the country’s security. As it is, despite Singapore’s small maritime space, it has one of the world’s busiest ports and straddles major sea lanes. Given the short distance between Singapore’s shoreline and its international boundary – in some places less than 500 meters, Teo said – its maritime security forces often have little reaction time and space to respond to sea-borne threats, which could be less than a minute for a boat traveling at high speed.
The country also faces growing threats like terrorism, smuggling, an illegal immigration and piracy. Teo noted in his speech that Al-Qaeda has called for the disruption of global trade and shipping through acts of piracy, while smugglers have become more sophisticated and organized. In 2014, he said, the PCG had arrested 46 illegal immigrants and prevented more than 7,000 suspicious vessels (or roughly 20 per day) from intruding into Singapore’s waters.
While these new vessels will be a boost to Singapore’s interception capabilities, Teo also stressed that efforts were underway in other areas as well. The PCG, he noted, adopts a three-pronged approach of detection, deterrence and interception. To enhance detection, he said that Singapore would nearly double the number of cameras around the island to monitor its waters as well as upgrade its command, control and communications (or C3) system. Meanwhile, to increase deterrence, the PCG would more than double the length of land- and sea-based barriers along Singapore’s shoreline to deter illegal landings.
Beyond improving capabilities, he also emphasized the need to focus on training PCG officers who would be operating these new boats and equipment. “Our officers need to continually hone their skills in order to fully utilize the capabilities of these new boats to intercept intruders effectively and swiftly, with due regard to their own safety,” Teo said.