At any moment in time, a patrol vessel (PV) and her crew of 30 is out at sea, guarding Singapore’s waters. As part of Singapore’s frontline seaward defence, they keep a keen eye out for any threats to our maritime nation.
The PVs play a critical part in ensuring Singapore’s maritime security, which is overseen and coordinated by the Maritime Security Task Force (MSTF).
Based in Changi Naval Base, MSTF works closely with other national maritime agencies such as the Police Coast Guard. With a comprehensive, real-time view of Singapore’s maritime situation, MSTF plans and executes maritime security operations and deploys our forces accordingly.
Keeping the PV’s communications up and running
Even in harbour, our PVs are operationally ready 24/7 and prepared to be deployed should the need arise. During sailing, they remain in constant contact with shore units.
As a communications operator, CFC Fabian Fung is in charge of ensuring that messages from the shore reach the ship out at sea. Together with a supervisor and one other communications operator on board RSS Fearless, he receives messages via the radio systems in the combat information centre and conveys them to the ship’s officers.
He also has to ensure that the communications headsets and handsets are in working order so that communication lines can flow smoothly and information can be transmitted without a hitch. This is especially important when the PV has to coordinate, for example, with the Accompanying Sea Security Teams (ASSeTs) on maritime security operations.
Part of his work also involves the more manual forms of communication, such as using signal flags.
When CFC Fung completes his national service in September, he says that “[he] will miss the times here.” He adds: “Not many [full-time national servicemen] get to go on board ships to learn, [so] it’s very valuable to be here.”
Charting the PV’s route
For navigation supervisor ME2 Lim Wee Keong, he finds great value in doing his part to protect Singapore’s waters. “Every time we sail out, we are protecting Singapore, protecting our families.”
In his role, he provides assistance to the Navigation Officer when the ship is out sailing. This involves planning the ship’s passage as well as operating the navigation radar. His responsibilities also include keeping a lookout on the surrounding waters and reporting any risk of collision to the Officer-of-the-Watch.
As a supervisor, ME2 Lim, who has been in the RSN for seven years, is in charge of a team of seven on board RSS Fearless. Besides taking care of their welfare, he also welcomes his men to approach him if they have any problems. “We are just like family here, [because] we see each other every day,” he explains.
“[Work] isn’t tough, just challenging. It’s challenging because we have to be vigilant. I want [us] to sail out safely and come back safely so I can see my family,” he says. Protecting his country and family, after all, is the reason why he strives to do his job well. Feeding the PV’s morale
Ensuring that the PV crew is able to perform their duties well is at the core of what chef ME1 Tan Siong Swee does. “What I do is not much,” he says, “but [I help to] boost the ship’s morale and energy so that they can keep Singapore safe.”
As a PV has only one chef on board, he bears the sole responsibility for preparing the ship’s four daily meals, including a light snack. He also has to plan out the menu and supplies that need to be ordered every week.
The toughest part of his job is when the PV encounters rough sea states, he says. Once, he had to prepare the meals while the ship was being tossed by waves that reached swell heights of 1m. This can be dangerous as he has to maintain his balance while using knives and handling hot pots and pans.
However, ME1 Tan says he intends on continuing to serve. “I love cooking and I like sailing on board a PV … [we are] protecting Singapore every day.”
Story by Yvette Kan
Photos by Jonathan Khoo