SINGAPORE - When the Republic of Singapore Navy's (RSN) RSS Resolution L204 returned to its home base from Taiwan in 1985, it was riddled with cracks after being buffeted by waves for days during two typhoons.
Some cracks were large enough that the tank deck, which is located within the vessel, could be seen from the landing ship tank's (LST) main deck, said 61-year-old Nicholas Koh, who was the ship's marine engineering officer.
"It was a mission that saw the best of our people working together in unison to bring the ship home, in the face of dire challenges that were life-threatening," he added.
He is one of more than 1,000 signatories of an online petition to have the ship salvaged and used as an exhibit in the Navy Museum, which is set to undergo a revamp.
The petition was started by another former crew member, Mr Raymond Lim, about four weeks ago.
Almost eight decades old, RSS Resolution was one of five County-class LSTs that Singapore acquired from the US Navy in the 1970s. They were replaced by locally designed and built Endurance-class LSTs in the late 1990s.
Defence blogger and former defence correspondent for The Straits Times David Boey said RSS Resolution is the last example of a warship from the RSN's early years, adding that the RSN missed an opportunity to preserve its past for future generations when its first warship - RSS Panglima - was auctioned in 1992 for $1,300.
The four other County-class LSTs have been scrapped.
At about 100m long, RSS Resolution L204 could be the centrepiece of the museum located within Changi Naval Base, said Mr Boey.
No vessels are currently on display at the museum.
Mr Steven Yeo, whose official title on RSS Resolution was chief electronics, said that Singaporeans could learn from the multiracial crew of the navy's former LSTs.
"During our missions, we went through hell and back, and through these experiences we became brothers," the 56-year-old said, recounting challenges on the high seas that had to be overcome, such as fires and when the vessel took in water.
Former naval regular Gurdip Singh said the last of the County-class LSTs could be used to demonstrate to current servicemen how much the navy has progressed.
In the absence of a global positioning system then, the crew navigated using astronavigation, and made do with less precise tools, said the 66-year-old, who served in various appointments on the County-class LSTs from 1978 to 1989.
RSS Resolution could be seen beached for exercises near Bedok Jetty in East Coast Park from the late 1970s, but members of the public got to board the vessel during the 1984 National Exhibition at the World Trade Centre.
Colonel Rinson Chua, co-chairman of the Navy Museum Refresh Committee, said preserving ships beyond their operational lifespan "must be judiciously balanced against resourcing considerations such as the financial cost of upkeep, space required and the manpower to maintain the artefacts".
"To ensure that the right balance is struck, the RSN consistently engages various stakeholders, including our servicemen, to ensure that voices are taken on board before any decision is made," he added.
Where it is not possible to retain the vessel, Col Chua said the Navy Museum will explore alternatives to ensure that memories of the RSN's heritage will be well preserved for future generations.
RSS Resolution's former second-in-command Kuet Ee Yoon, 62, said he was invited by members of the museum refresh committee to share ideas for the museum's revamp.
Given the ship's potential as a tourist attraction, Mr Kuet, who retired as a lieutenant-colonel, said a feasibility study to assess its retention could be done, and suggested that the Singapore Tourism Board could lead efforts to make RSS Resolution's retention a financially sustainable venture by drawing visitors from abroad.