What happens if criminal activity is discovered at sea? How can the surrounding nations work together to track down the suspicious vessels and stop the perpetrators?
Such scenarios will be tackled at the ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting (ADMM)-Plus Maritime Security Field Training Exercise (FTX), which is ongoing from 30 Apr to 13 May.
The ADMM-Plus Maritime Security FTX is co-organised by Singapore and the Republic of Korea (ROK), as part of the two countries’ co-chairmanship of the ADMM-Plus Experts' Working Group on Maritime Security from 2017 to 2020.
At the opening ceremony, held in Busan, ROK on 30 Apr, the ADMM-Plus countries pledged to enhance maritime cooperation and communication between their respective navies.
In his opening address, Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) Commander Maritime Battle Group 3, Rear-Admiral (RADM) Lee Seong Yeol highlighted the importance of multinational cooperation to tackle maritime threats.
He said: “The recent and increasing occurrences of maritime terrorism, piracy and transcontinental crimes threaten the liberty of maritime use, enhancing the crucial need for cooperation among nations.
“It is my hope that this exercise will hone (their) joint response capability (against) maritime crime, (foster) camaraderie among nations and strengthen trust.”
Co-Commander Task Group for the Maritime Security FTX, Colonel (COL) Lim Yu Chuan echoed those sentiments.
“This exercise is significant because what we do at sea here will help us build confidence and trust among the ADMM-plus nations,” said COL Lim, who is also Commander 1st Flotilla and Commanding Officer of 185 Squadron in the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN).
A total of 19 ships, 10 aircraft and about 700 personnel from the 18 ADMM-Plus countries will be participating in a series of maritime security drills and professional exchanges. These will be held off the waters of ROK and Singapore.
“This particular FTX aims to promote practical cooperation between navies in the area of maritime security,” said RSN Major Ho Chuan, who is Singapore’s Lead Planner in the ADMM-Plus Maritime Security FTX.
“The objective is to bring like-minded countries together to keep our seas open, allow us to better understand each other (and) help us to enhance maritime security in our region.”
While coordinating between the navies was no easy task, the 30-year-old Operations Officer of RSS Stalwart noted that the different backgrounds and experiences that each brought to the table proved to be beneficial to the exercise.
The ADMM-Plus Maritime Security FTX will bring together participants and observers from the ADMM nations comprising the ten ASEAN countries, as well as “Plus” countries Australia, China, Japan, India, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Russia and the United States.
Captain Roy Vincent T Trinidad, commander of the Philippine Navy contingent at the ADMM-Plus Maritime Security FTX, believes that the exercise will provide valuable learning opportunities: “It shows us the areas (in which) we can cooperate, and (share) tactics, techniques and procedures in the naval environment.”
The 50-year-old, who is Deputy Commander of Naval Forces Central in Cebu added: “It opens communication lines between all participants… so that navy-to-navy, we know who to get in touch with (in the event of incidents at sea).”
The ADMM-Plus Maritime Security FTX will culminate with a sea security drill off the waters of Singapore on 12 May before ending with a closing ceremony at RSS Singapura – Changi Naval Base on 13 May.