The Republic of Singapore Navy's Information Fusion Centre (IFC), which allows maritime security information to be shared across countries, launched its upgraded portal yesterday as it marks its 10th anniversary this year.
Emphasising the importance of information sharing across countries, Senior Minister of State for Defence Maliki Osman said this continues to be relevant and even more critical than before.
He said: "There are many 'unknown unknowns' in the maritime environment, such as unidentified vessels, unreported illegal activities and smuggling routes. In fact, what happens in your immediate waters could invariably affect the security of mine.
"Information sharing can bridge these information and time gaps, by providing actionable information to the correct parties for operational responses. This is why the IFC was established 10 years ago."
Dr Maliki was speaking at the 10th anniversary celebration and the launch of IFC's Real-time Information Sharing System, dubbed Iris, at RSS Singapura - Changi Naval Base.
The event was attended by navy chiefs and vice-chiefs, coast guard directors-general and representatives from more than 40 nations.
Established in April 2009, the IFC is hosted by the Republic of Singapore Navy at Changi Naval Base.
It is a regional maritime security centre that facilitates information sharing and collaboration between countries. Its Iris portal includes tools such as chat functions to provide a common platform for maritime stakeholders. Documents, pictures and videos can be shared and exchanged.
The Web-based system has an improved user interface and enhanced graphics for easier navigation and a better user experience.
It can also be accessed through mobile devices on board ships at sea, as well as shore-based operations centres, thereby improving access to information.
Dr Maliki said the growing phenomenon of transnational connectivity means that perpetrators can more easily exploit maritime activities to conduct egregious - and potentially large-scale - transboundary crimes.
"And to be clear - transboundary threats require a transboundary response," he said.
Information flows much faster and more easily across multiple domains in today's digital age, he said.
Dr Maliki added that the IFC's role is more important than ever, as it shares actionable information with regional and international navies, coast guards and other agencies to deal with threats to maritime security.
Highlighting the centre's contributions, Dr Maliki gave the example of the arrest of STS 50 - a stateless fishing vessel with multiple criminal records for illegal fishing, slavery and identity fraud - in April last year. It was constantly on the run and had managed to evade the authorities in various countries by assuming different identities.
Interpol and French international liaison officers provided information to the IFC, which later informed the Indonesian navy, resulting in the vessel's capture in the waters off northern Sumatra.
Dr Maliki said this arrest was possible because international partners had gathered to piece together information.
"This highlighted the strength and necessity of transnational cooperation embodied in the IFC's success, and will continue to drive future missions," he added.