Police beef up waterway security with 2 new boats

The Tigerfish, one of the two new Police Coast Guard patrol boats commissioned yesterday. The new boats, with their superior equipment compared with the older vessels, are designed for longer hours of operation and for boarding and search operations
The Tigerfish, one of the two new Police Coast Guard patrol boats commissioned yesterday. The new boats, with their superior equipment compared with the older vessels, are designed for longer hours of operation and for boarding and search operations in the reservoir and rivers.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

High-tech vessels will enhance security when major events are staged at Marina Reservoir

Two new patrol boats will ply the waters around the Marina Reservoir, providing extra pairs of eyes during major events such as the National Day Parade or Formula One Grand Prix.

They replace older boats in ongoing efforts to enhance the Police Coast Guard's maritime crime-fighting and counterterrorism capabilities, said the Singapore Police Force.

Yesterday, the boats Archerfish and Tigerfish were commissioned. They are immediately deployable and will support overall security operations when major events are staged at the Marina Reservoir.

The Police Coast Guard, which also carries out security operations along the Singapore River, Kallang Basin and Marina Reservoir, may now be deployed nearer to the shoreline and to patrol waterways near Parliament House during big events.

The new boats, with their superior equipment over the older vessels, are designed for longer hours of operation and for boarding and search operations in the reservoir and rivers, said the police. They are faster than their predecessors - able to travel in excess of 25 knots to pursue and engage intruding craft.

"We encounter quite a number of vessels intruding into the no-go zone (during events)," said Inspector Lee Hong Tat, 34, who has been with the Police Coast Guard for 15 years. "Previously, we wouldn't know until someone calls but with these boats and the radar, we know... and we can act fast."

The boats' capabilities include an automatic identification system, a satellite gyro positioning system, voyage data recorder and closed-circuit television system.

Mr Desmond Lee, Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs, said at the commissioning ceremony at the Marina Barrage that attacks in Europe and in the region have shown the damage a few extremists can cause.

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group has also published a newsletter in Bahasa Indonesia, calling on its fighters in South-east Asia to carry out more attacks in the region, he said, as he emphasised that the boats are the coast guard's "key response to threats that are detected through our surveillance".

"Other than terrorists infiltrating from beyond our borders, the Police Coast Guard is also concerned that terrorist attacks could come from within. Radicalised persons could exploit the reservoir to mount attacks," added Mr Lee.

Responding to queries, Dr Rohan Gunaratna, head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, said the detection and disruption of an ISIS plot in Batam to attack Singapore shows why it is "paramount" for police to closely monitor maritime traffic and movement into Singapore.

He said: "Bahrun Naim (a Syria-based ISIS militant) explored the idea of transporting from Indonesia foreign fighter recruits by boat to Singapore and Malaysia to obtain the Singapore immigration stamp."

Terrorists who carried out the 2008 Mumbai attacks that left 166 dead also came by sea.

"To disrupt crimes, including human smuggling and terrorism, the Police Coast Guard has a vital role. With the threat evolving, new capabilities are needed to secure Singapore," Dr Gunaratna added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 28, 2016, with the headline 'Police beef up waterway security with 2 new boats'. Print Edition | Subscribe