Ng Eng Hen commends Maritime Security Task Force

A half-minute video posted on Facebook by Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen showed him speaking with Lieutenant-Colonel Ye Yiming, the commanding officer of littoral mission vessel RSS Justice. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM FACEBOOK/NG ENG HEN

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen yesterday (Dec 20) commended the Maritime Security Task Force (MSTF), after it stepped up operations in recent months in response to several incidents.

After visiting Changi Naval Base, Dr Ng, in a Facebook post, noted that the MSTF has the capabilities to conduct round-the-clock surveillance of Singapore's territorial waters from air, land and sea.

He wrote: "In recent months, MSTF has stepped up operations in response to a number of incidents - the Batam terrorist cell, Trump-Kim summit and intrusions into the Singapore territorial waters at Tuas."

He added: "I commended and encouraged them to stay vigilant and professional at all times."

Dr Ng was accompanied by Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How, MPs Vikram Nair and Henry Kwek, who sit on the Government Parliamentary Committee for Defence and Foreign Affairs, and senior media editors.

Set up in 2009, the Republic of Singapore Navy's MSTF works with law enforcement and maritime agencies to safeguard Singapore's waters.

Among other things, the force conducts daily patrols as well as boarding and escort operations in the Singapore Strait and sea lines of communications - which are key maritime passageways that facilitate trade.

A half-minute video posted by Dr Ng showed him speaking on the phone with Lieutenant-Colonel Ye Yiming, the commanding officer of littoral mission vessel RSS Justice.

In his call made from the MSTF operations centre, the minister asked LTC Ye to "tell (his) crew to continue their good work".

Dr Ng added in his post that the MSTF works closely with national agencies - the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority, Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, Singapore Civil Defence Force, Singapore Customs and Singapore Police Force - to safeguard Singapore's territorial waters round the clock.

The intrusions into Singapore's territorial waters that Dr Ng referred to were made by Malaysian government vessels.

On Oct 25, Malaysia unilaterally extended the Johor Baru port limits such that they encroached on Singapore's territorial waters off Tuas. Fourteen incursions by Malaysian vessels were recorded between Nov 24 and Dec 5.

There were two Malaysian ships in Singapore waters as of Monday (Dec 17), said Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan.

Both sides have agreed to meet in the second week of next month to discuss the dispute.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 21, 2018, with the headline Ng Eng Hen commends Maritime Security Task Force. Subscribe