Ships in Singapore waters will get new ASSeT

Updated On: Mar 01, 2005

Singapore–Security aroundSingaporewaters will be enhanced from Marchwhen armed security teams from theRepublicofSingapore Navywill start escorting some merchant ships entering or leaving the port.

Selected merchant ships, including cruise liners, would be identified for escort, which will be confined to withinSingaporewaters only. The ships' previous ports of call, the cargo on board and other shipping data, would be looked at for hints of possible threats.

Up to eight Navy personnel could board ships each time, among them a seaman, an engineering specialist and a radio operator, who would know how to take control of the ship in an emergency.

Members of the Accompanying Sea Security Teams (ASSeT) will don bullet-proof vests and carry weapons such as carbines and pistols, but they will not have powers of arrest, which will rest with the Police Coast Guard officers accompanying them.

"We don't call them sea marshals, which is more aggressive. This is a team giving you added security while transiting, not going on board to search and turn tables,” saidColonel Chng Teow Hiang,commander of the Navy's Coastal Command.

Countries such as theUnited Statesand thePhilippineshave deployed sea marshals to prevent terrorists from ramming chemical tankers into ports as floating bombs, and planting explosives on passenger ships, among other threats.

ASSeT is one of many maritime security measures taken bySingaporesince the Sept 11 terrorist attacks in 2001 to safeguard its busy sealanes. About 1,000 vessels transit theSingapore Straitdaily.

* Armed Navy escorts for suspect ships (The Straits Times, Feb 28)