By wendell minnick
Published: 12 May 2009 14:27
SINGAPORE - Coordinating naval action and the prosecution of pirates continues to hamper anti-piracy efforts, Teo Chee Hean, deputy prime minister and minister for defense, told attendees May 12 at the International Maritime Defense Exhibition (IMDEX) here.
"This means that a flexible and inclusive approach towards the Gulf of Aden situation is needed until a more lasting solution can be found on shore," Teo said at the opening ceremony of the three-day biennial event. This year's edition features international delegations from 35 countries, including a U.S. delegation led by Adm. Robert Willard, commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Teo said the best approach was "flexible groupings" working cooperatively.
Singapore has sent the RSS Persistence, a tank landing ship outfitted with two Super Puma helicopters, for a three-month tour to the Gulf of Aden to conduct sector patrols to deter Somali pirate attacks.
Closer to home, Teo cited the Western Pacific Naval Symposium and said navies in the Asia-Pacific region have worked together to "tackle common maritime challenges at the operational level."
He said the Malacca Straits Patrols bring together Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand in a cooperative effort to lower piracy levels, calling it "collaborative deterrence."
Other organizations contribute to the securing of the region, including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Defense Ministers' Meeting, the East Asia Summit, ASEAN Regional Forum and the Shangri-La Dialogue, scheduled for the end of May.
Singapore has also created the Maritime Security Task Force (MSTF), which includes members of the Police Coast Guard, the Maritime and Port Authority, Immigration and Checkpoints Authority, and Customs.
"The MSTF ensures close coordination in the execution of maritime security operations at the national level and enhances Singapore's ability to respond swiftly and effectively to potential maritime security threats to our shores and waters," Teo said.
This week, the Singapore Navy is also conducting the inaugural Maritime Information Sharing Exercise (MARISX) at the Changi C2 Centre's Information Fusion Centre from May 11-15.
MARISX is a scenario exercise to "validate linkages between various participating operation centers and to practice the information-sharing processes among regional navies," according to an IMDEX press release.
These systems include the Regional Maritime Information Exchange, Malacca Straits Patrols Information System, Open and Analysed Shipping and Information System, and the Sense-Making and Research Tool.
"They will share seemingly unrelated bits of information and piece the information together to uncover a 'terrorist' plot involving series of multiple attacks, from the sea, on an iconic event in our region," the release said.
There will be 39 international liaison officers from 16 countries participating in MARISX, including Canada, Chile, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Thailand and the United States. The international governmental organization, the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships, will also participate in the exercise.
Teo also praised the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the 1982 agreement that struck a balance between coastal states desiring "user states" with legitimate interests in sea access, and those who "wanted to ensure that the high seas rights" already in place would not be reduced.
"The balance struck in UNCLOS is a critical one for all stakeholders who desire peace and stability at sea," Teo said. "Without UNCLOS, contests over rights between states, and between coastal states and other states over use of the sea, have the potential to flare up into confrontation and conflict. It is thus in the interest of both user states and coastal states to respect and preserve that careful balance struck in UNCLOS."
Teo pointed to the fact that 90 percent of world trade is conducted by sea, and securing sea lines of communication were "vital to international stability and prosperity."