SINGAPORE - For about two decades, the RSS Independence - one of the first warships wholly designed and built in Singapore - patrolled the country's waters, escorted other ships, and kept a lookout for potential threats.
The Fearless-class Patrol Vessel had inherited its name from the retired Patrol Craft RSS Independence, which was the first ship - out of six bought by the Singapore Navy in 1968 - to enter service in December 1970.
On Wednesday (March 8), the Patrol Vessel RSS Independence "retired" as an operational ship of the Singapore Navy and will pass the baton on to a new ship that will bear the storied name.
In the fading evening light, the flags on the warship were lowered for the final time as sailors of the Singapore Navy gave the vessel one last salute at Tuas Naval Base.
The decommissioning, marked by a solemn ceremony, was witnessed by senior navy officers as well as the past and present crews of the RSS Independence.
Chief of Navy Lai Chung Han cited the vessel's contributions to the country's maritime security and its participation in various multilateral exercises such as the Western Pacific Naval Symposium Multilateral Sea Exercise.
He also paid tribute to the officers who had sailed on the vessel, saying: "The success of RSS Independence would not have been possible without the unwavering dedication, professionalism, tenacity and sacrifice of the generations of officers and crews who have served on board."
He added that, among other things, the ship will be remembered for "swiftly and successfully" rescuing five fishermen from their capsized fishing trawler in the waters off Pedra Branca in September 2015.
The RSS Independence was commissioned on Aug 22, 1998, by then Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam, to take over the operational duties of Patrol Craft RSS Independence.
But the ageing Patrol Vessels, which were commissioned between 1996 and 1998, have been in service for about 20 years.
They are being gradually replaced by the new Littoral Mission Vessels (LMV), which the navy says are faster, more versatile, and better equipped to defend Singapore's waters. The LMVs will be fully operational by 2020.
And in time-honoured naval tradition, the RSS Independence will pass on its name to the LMV Independence, which will be commissioned on May 5 as part of the navy's 50th anniversary celebrations.
Correction note: This story has been updated for greater clarity.