When COVID-19 was spreading in migrant worker dormitories across Singapore in 2020, local firm Eastern Navigation stepped up and provided two vessels at short notice to help house the migrant workers.
The company, which specialises in offshore support vessels, put in significant resources to get the two accommodation vessels ready within a week, instead of the usual one month it takes to do so. It also had to turn down business from companies that wanted to charter the accommodation vessels.
"Answering the call to support the country, especially in this kind of national emergency, was a no-brainer for a Singapore company like us," said Mr Tan Yew Meng, Deputy General Manager of Eastern Navigation.
The company's contribution was vital – one of the accommodation vessels, ENA Habitat, was used to house the essential workers needed to ensure the continued operation of Changi Airport.
Always ready to support the nation
Mr Tan, 47, recalled that when the company was approached by the authorities to help with the COVID-19 situation, both vessels were berthed at Batam, Indonesia.
The company had to sail the vessels back to Singapore, then put in place the necessary facilities to make the migrant workers' stay more comfortable. The company's staff also worked with the authorities to iron out the safety and operation procedures.
"It did not take us a long time (to complete the setup) as this was our bread and butter, and we had dealt with emergency operations before," said Mr Tan, adding that the company always keeps its vessels in a state of high readiness.
It also helped that some of its staff were former Navy Regulars who were experienced in handling crisis operations, he added. Both accommodation vessels were eventually deployed for over six months.
For its strong commitment to Total Defence, Eastern Navigation received the National Service (NS) Advocate Award for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
It was among the 148 companies, organisations and individuals that received the NS Advocate Awards at the Total Defence Awards Ceremony 2021 on 23 Mar. The ceremony had been postponed from 2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Playing its part for Total Defence
Eastern Navigation, which operates a fleet of offshore support vessels, also actively supports the Republic of Singapore Navy during civil resource requisition exercises, said Mr Tan. He said its fleet of vessels can be used for operations like fire-fighting or logistics support.
As part of Total Defence efforts, the Singapore Armed Forces works closely with civilian companies to mobilise civil resources like heavy vehicles and ships for operations and exercises.
"We're proud to have played a part in ensuring the stability and peace of Singapore. Everyone has a part to play," said Mr Tan, who served as an infantry officer during NS.