Forum: Singapore must deal with pirates forcefully to keep waters safe

Container ships in the Singapore Strait in July 2019.
Container ships in the Singapore Strait in July 2019.PHOTO: ST FILE

Singapore should learn from its past experiences from 1963 to 1966 when dealing with maritime terrorists and pirates in its territorial waters.

Associate Professor Bilveer Singh mentioned the possibility of maritime terrorists firing rockets into our harbour and business district (Maritime terrorism a threat, say experts amid rising piracy attacks, Dec 30, 2019).

During the Confrontation with Indonesia, there were about 40 incursions originating from Riau Islands and Sumatra into Singapore territorial waters, even with intensive patrols by the navy and the marine police.

The infiltrators in fast speed boats used machine guns and grenades to engage patrolling naval ships when intercepted.

There were a few casualties on the naval ships, but the immediate response was to sink these small boats after warning shots were fired.

In today's context, potential pirates and terrorists need to be made aware of the dangers they are putting themselves in due to their attempted intrusions, and be aware that Singapore's maritime patrols will carry out stringent measures.

One good practice the navy implemented in the past was to ensure the boatmen of intercepted speed boats were not allowed to go alongside the naval patrol boats lest they lobbed a hand-grenade on the deck of the patrol boats. The infiltrators were instead made to swim from a distance away to the patrol boats.

In recent years, Indonesia has taken practical measures by sinking fishing boats that had intruded into its fishing grounds, to show that it means business.

Based on its past experiences, Singapore should engage maritime pirates and terrorists forcefully, as only then will its territorial waters be safe for ships plying our harbour.

Adrian Villanueva

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 01, 2020, with the headline 'Singapore must deal with pirates forcefully to keep waters safe'. Subscribe