For three months, members of the Combined Task Force (CTF) 151 remained alert and thwarted numerous piracy attempts in the Gulf of Aden.
But it was the second last morning of June this year that commander of the force Colonel Giam Hock Koon remembers the most. The task force was involved in the successful disruption of a hijacking by about a dozen Somali pirates on an Indian dhow that was carrying livestock.
"The alert was raised and we responded to it by directing the Japanese maritime patrol aircraft, which after a few searches, was able to localise this vessel and subsequently direct the adjacent task forces, which were able to pressurise the pirates into abandoning their plans," he recalled. "This was the closest the pirates were to being successful," added the 47-year-old navy officer.
Colonel Giam was one of 47 recipients of the SAF Overseas Service Medal on Monday at the Defence Ministry, in recognition of their counter-piracy efforts.
Since 2009, the Republic of Singapore Navy has deployed more than 1,200 personnel to the CTF 151 in the Gulf of Aden. Under Colonel Giam, the SAF team took charge of 11 ships from six different navies, and worked with other multinational naval forces and independent navies. There were no successful pirate attacks in their area of operations this year, compared to about 250 in the Gulf of Aden in 2011.
Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen, who handed out the awards, emphasised the importance of combating piracy in the Gulf of Aden, which accounts for 20 per cent of global trade. He said: "It is critical to all countries that the sea lines of communication in the Gulf of Aden remain free for navigation."
Dr Ng also announced that the SAF has accepted an invitation to assume the post of Deputy Director of Operations in the 29-nation Combined Maritime Forces Headquarters, which oversees CTF 151.