SINGAPORE - The gathering of navies from around the world to celebrate the Singapore Navy's 50th birthday bash is testament to the strong global friendships and networks that Singapore enjoys, President Tony Tan Keng Yam said on Monday (May 15).
Noting that the Singapore Navy has built enduring partnerships with like-minded navies, Dr Tan said: "To ensure a stable maritime order as well as safe and secure seas, multilateral cooperation is key."
This is because most of the security threats nowadays are transnational in nature that no single country can effectively manage on its own, he said after he was welcomed by a contingent of international sailors at Changi Naval Base.
For instance, the Singapore Navy's stealth frigates and landing ship tanks have taken part in multilateral counter-piracy operations, and also taken command of the Combined Task Force 151 fighting the scourge of piracy in the Gulf of Aden.
"In the challenging and uncertain security environment today, having only good hardware and strong capabilities is not sufficient," added Dr Tan, who was a former deputy prime minister and defence minister.
Under clear blue skies on Monday, a total of 46 ships, including 28 warships from 20 foreign navies, formed up in the waters near to Changi Naval Base as part of Singapore's first International Maritime Review to mark the Singapore Navy's coming of age on its golden jubilee.
Dr Tan boarded an open-top vehicle to review the docked warships, whose sailors cheered the President as he passed. He then embarked the recently commissioned Littoral Mission Vessel RSS Independence for a review of the remaining warships anchored off the base.
The review is held in conjunction with this year's edition of the International Maritime Defence Exhibition and Conference (Imdex), which Dr Tan noted is an important platform for naval leaders to exchange views on topics of common interests such as enhancing maritime cooperation.
Dr Tan also announced the renaming of Changi Naval Base to RSS Singapura-Changi Naval Base. As RSS Singapura was the name of the navy's first headquarters, the addition of the name will remind Singapore's sailors of the navy's heritage and its vital role in defending the country, he said.
"As a maritime nation in a maritime region, Singapore's security and success are all the more inextricably linked to the sea. We rely on freedom of access to the sea for economic prosperity and progress. In this regard, the role of the navy is critical to Singapore's survival as a nation," he added.
The navy has expanded its operational reach and capabilities by adding frigates. Up to the 1990s it operated largely in the immediate region, deploying only occasionally beyond South-east Asia.
Dr Tan added that a highlight of his visit to the navy last year was seeing the Archer class submarines, as he was pleased to see the submarine capability built up so quickly.
"I am confident the navy will continue to enhance its capabilities to address the evolving security landscape we are facing," he said.
Correction Note: In the graphic, “A gathering of naval friends”, we wrongly reported the Floreal-class FS Prairial as an Italian vessel. It is a French vessel. We also omitted that Australian frigate HMAS Ballarat was one of the foreign ships at the International Maritime Review. The Endurance-class RSS Endurance was incorrectly labelled as Formidable-class too. We are sorry for the errors.