Collective effort needed to ensure safe seas: Dr Ng

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14may19_news2
14 May 2019 | MILESTONES

Collective effort needed to ensure safe seas: Dr Ng

// REPORT by Thrina Tham 

// PHOTOS by PIONEER photographers

English 华文

With 25 per cent of all traded goods in the world on more than 1,000 ships passing through the Singapore Strait each day, calm seas in the region are needed to ensure global commerce continues, said Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen.

"But there are dark storm clouds on the horizon that can threaten the global maritime commons and our shared prosperity," he said. These include traditional maritime threats such as piracy, armed robbery and the trafficking of drugs, weapons and humans.

To counter this, the region's navies had set up the Malacca Straits Patrol, the Trilateral Cooperative Agreement in the Sulu Seas and the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in Asia. These resulted in a fall in piracy incidents along the Straits of Malacca – from 20 in 2007 to eight this year.

Singapore also collaborated with Indonesia to facilitate the proposal of an intelligence-sharing network among Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) militaries.

"As ASEAN Chair last year, Singapore helped push through the Indonesian initiative to be an ASEAN initiative," said Dr Ng.

Dr Ng highlighted these collective efforts against maritime threats at the opening of the 12th International Maritime Defence Exhibition and Conference (IMDEX) Asia, held at Changi Exhibition Centre on 14 May. 

Speaking to 26 chiefs of defence forces and navies, vice-chiefs, directors-general of coast guards and senior naval officers, Dr Ng emphasised that militaries need to build confidence through cooperation and collaboration.

The biennial IMDEX is Asia Pacific's largest international maritime defence show. This year's event, held from 14 to 16 May, sees the largest turnout of participants with 236 exhibitors from 30 countries.

It also features 25 warships from 15 countries taking part in the warship display at Changi Naval Base. This international fleet has three big ships: the Indian Navy's INS Shakti, Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force's JS Izumo and the Royal Australian Navy's HMAS Canberra, which is making its Singapore debut.

In conjunction with IMDEX Asia, the Republic of Singapore Navy also co-hosted the 6th International Maritime Security Conference (IMSC) with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing opened the IMSC at JW Marriott Hotel on the evening on 14 May, where he echoed Dr Ng's sentiments on the importance of trust and cooperation between maritime nations.

"A preoccupation with guarding our own interests will prevent us from mounting effective responses...We share the seas and there is space for us to respond as a community; to protect our global commons together," urged Mr Chan.

He highlighted three approaches that Singapore has taken to build trust: using operational mechanisms such as the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea; building interoperability through exercises and information sharing; and establishing open and inclusive dialogue.

On the last point, Mr Chan noted that the IMSC along with Shangri-La Dialogue were platforms used to establish such dialogue.

He said: "By involving the wider maritime community, including navies, coast guards, and think-tanks, we promote more holistic perspectives and we arrive at better solutions."

IMSC is expected to see over 400 international participants from navies, maritime industries and academia, from more than 40 countries, coming together to exchange views and forge practical cooperation.

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