03 March 2004 06:05 [Source: ICIS news]
SINGAPORE (CNI)--The Singapore government has announced it will set up a top-level taskforce on maritime security due to increased concern about the prospect of sea-based terrorism and piracy.
Deputy Prime Minister and Co-ordinating Minister for Security and Defence Tony Tan said that the city-state was elevating its 17-month old working group on marine and port security to ministry level in order to bolster maritime security.
Tan noted that terrorists had attacked high-value targets using explosive-laden speedboats in 2000 and 2002, with the attacks on the USS Cole and the French oil tanker Limburg.
He also noted that the number of reported piracy attacks had risen to 445 last year from 370 in 2002, with one-third of those attacks taking place in waters near Singapore, particularly in Indonesian waters. Around 9% of vessels attacked by pirates last year had carried the Singapore flag.
Tan said that pirates in the region had been conducting recent attacks with ‘almost military precision’ making the threat of a commercial vessel or cruise liner being hijacked and used as a floating bomb a serious one.
Measures implemented since the working group was formed in 2002 include clearly designating routes for ferries and small craft, an increase in the number of coast guard patrols and selective escorting of high-value merchant vessels in the Singapore straits.
The government task force will include representatives from the navy, police coast guard, maritime and port authority and the ministries of defence, foreign affairs, home affairs and transport.
As a major Southeast Asian port as well as a significant oil and petrochemicals hub, Singapore has been particularly concerned about the risks of maritime terrorism.
It recently acceded to the Rome Convention on the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation, requiring it to take action against those allegedly involved in maritime piracy or terrorism, regardless of whether the acts are committed in Singapore waters.
In November Singapore defence minister Rear-Admiral Teo Chee Hean warned that the damage could be horrific if terrorists turned supertankers, liquified petroleum gas (LPG), liquified natural gas (LNG) or chemical carriers into floating bombs.
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