Inter-agency maritime security exercises held to ready Singapore's response to potential terrorist attacks

Special Operations Task Force troopers rappelling from a Super Puma helicopter during Exercise Apex 2020.
Special Operations Task Force troopers rappelling from a Super Puma helicopter during Exercise Apex 2020.PHOTO: GOV.SG

SINGAPORE - Two high-level inter-agency maritime security exercises were carried out recently to make sure Singapore continues to be ready for potential terrorist attacks amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Due in part to Covid-19 restrictions that prevent too-large groups from gathering, the agencies coordinated activities using video conferencing tools.

The first, Exercise Highcrest, was conducted from Oct 26 to 30, with simulated attacks on Singapore's key coastal installations.

Personnel from the Republic of Singapore Navy, the police, the Singapore Civil Defence Force, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority, Singapore Customs and the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore worked together to neutralise the threats.

They also rehearsed managing the aftermath of such attacks, which included managing maritime traffic, said the Ministry of Defence in a press release on Tuesday (Nov 3).

The second, Exercise Apex, started on Monday (Nov 2) and will end on Wednesday (Nov 4).

Deployed forces from the Maritime Security Task Force, Special Operations Task Force, Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Explosive Defence Group personnel, Independence-class littoral mission vessel RSS Unity, multiple Super Puma helicopters and a Heron 1 unmanned aerial vehicle were tasked to recapture a merchant vessel hijacked by terrorists.

Said Maritime Security Task Force Commander Yong Wei Hsiung: "We must ensure our national maritime security system is robust and ready at all times to deal with any threats quickly and decisively. Through the tight-knit collaboration, I am assured that we can continue to keep our country safe against maritime security threats, even amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic."

The coronavirus has thrown a spanner in the works of Singapore's defence operations. In addition to the suspension of individual physical proficiency tests (IPPT) and in-camp training (ICT) for operationally-ready national servicemen (NSmen) earlier in the year, joint exercises with foreign militaries have also had to be cancelled or altered.

Special Operations Task Force troopers boarding a hijacked vessel to seize control of it during a simulated storming operation. PHOTO: GOV.SG

A joint maritime exercise in September between the Singapore and Australian navies was conducted with no physical interaction between personnel from the two countries, while the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) in May said it had suspended all large-scale overseas exercises because of the pandemic.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen also said that the delivery of submarines and helicopters that the SAF has purchased will be delayed.

More than 6,000 servicemen and women have been mobilised for the national fight against Covid-19, including in the running of foreign worker dormitories and contact tracing operations.