betty November 4, 2020

Two high-level inter-agency maritime security exercises were carried out recently to make sure Singapore continues to be ready for potential terrorist attacks amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

In part due to Covid-19 curbs that prevent large groups from gathering, the agencies coordinated some activities using videoconferencing tools.

The first, Exercise Highcrest, was held from Oct 26 to 30, with simulated attacks on Singapore’s key coastal installations.

Personnel from the Republic of Singapore Navy, the police, the Singapore Civil Defence Force, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority, Singapore Customs and the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore worked together to neutralise the threats.

They rehearsed managing the aftermath of such attacks, which included managing maritime traffic, said the Ministry of Defence in a press statement yesterday.

The second, Exercise Apex, started on Monday and will end today.

Deployed forces from the Maritime Security Task Force, Special Operations Task Force, Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Explosive Defence Group personnel, Independence-class littoral mission vessel RSS Unity, multiple Super Puma helicopters and a Heron 1 unmanned aerial vehicle were tasked to recapture a merchant vessel hijacked by terrorists.

Maritime Security Task Force Commander Yong Wei Hsiung said: “We must ensure our national maritime security system is robust and ready at all times to deal with any threats quickly and decisively. Through the tight-knit collaboration, I am assured that we can continue to keep our country safe against maritime security threats, even amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.”

The pandemic has thrown a spanner in the works of Singapore’s defence operations. In addition to the suspension of individual physical proficiency tests (IPPT) and in-camp training (ICT) for operationally ready national servicemen (NSmen) earlier in the year, joint exercises with foreign militaries have also had to be cancelled or altered.

A joint maritime exercise in September between the Singapore and Australian navies was conducted with no physical interaction between personnel from the two countries, while the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) in May said it had suspended all large-scale overseas exercises because of the pandemic.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said the delivery of submarines and helicopters that the SAF has purchased will be delayed.

More than 6,000 servicemen and women have been mobilised for the national fight against Covid-19, including for the running of foreign worker dormitories and contact tracing operations.