As the Singapore Civil Defence Force
(SCDF) Marine Division 10th anniversary event drew to a close, the Heavy Fire Vessel Red Sailfish
put on a fantastic display for the guests and officers in attendance.
Red Sailfish in action at Brani Marine Fire Station, on Marine Division's 10th anniversary event on 1 April 2022. PHOTO: Joash Tan
One of the world’s most powerful firefighting vessels, Red Sailfish
turned on its powerful jets and sprayed water in a 360-degree arc high into the air. It was a majestic sight.
Among the Marine Division officers looking on with pride was Lieutenant (LTC) Mohamed Nazim Bin Kudin. A 25-year SCDF veteran, he served as SCDF Marine Division’s Head of Operations & Training from 2012 to 2020 and now heads the Specialist Training Centre at the Civil Defence Academy
“We started out in 2012 with only two fireboats that were stationed at West Coast Marine Fire Station,” he recalled. “Those vessels only had two small water monitors each, but now, Red Sailfish
alone is equipped with 12 powerful monitors that can fill a swimming pool within two minutes.”
LTC Nazim has played a leading role in building up SCDF Marine Division’s operational and training capabilities over the past 10 years. He was also involved in the development of the Division’s Marine Fire Stations and fleet of six state-of-the-art vessels.
The pioneering team of Marine Division officers in 2012. PHOTO: SCDF
For LTC Nazim, being the Head of Operations meant experiencing everything related to Marine Division’s work for himself. “In all that we do, the Operations team is often the first to face the unknown,” he explained. “Our learning curve was steep.”
During Marine Division’s early days, LTC Nazim was sent to Germany to learn more about marine operations and firefighting vessels. He also completed an attachment with Hong Kong’s Marine Division to observe its capabilities and learn about underwater rescue and diving. “We studied how other countries conducted their marine operations,” he recalled. “But at the end of the day, we needed to adopt best practices from all over the world to our operating environment.”
Training Our Marine Firefighters
Another key challenge for Marine Division was to train firemen into seamen. “SCDF has a very long history in fighting fires, but marine operations were relatively new to us,” he said. “To integrate these two capabilities was quite a challenge. That’s why we approached the Police Coast Guard and Republic of Singapore Navy
to help train our officers on navigation and seacraft.”
In 2015, Full-time National Servicemen began serving with the Marine Division as Navigation Specialists and Firefighters. This has helped to enhance the Division’s response to maritime emergencies. “Our Marine Specialists are now more skilful and knowledgeable,” said LTC Nazim.
Fighting Fire on Water
Marine firefighters climbing aboard a stricken vessel during a night rescue operation in August 2021. PHOTOS: SCDF
There are many variables to consider when fighting a fire out at sea. To get aboard a vessel that’s ablaze, Marine firefighters often have to scale a ladder with all their heavy equipment. Once onboard, they have to work in confined spaces and face heat conditions that are more intense than those on land. “It’s even more challenging when we have to do all this at night,” said LTC Nazim.
One of the most memorable fires that LTC Nazim attended to was the blaze on the Salam Mesra
container ship in July 2018. The vessel was anchored off Marina Barrage and a fire had started in the captain’s cabin before spreading. “That night, as I stood on the deck of the Salam Mesra
, it felt like I was on a burning pot,” recalled LTC Nazim. “I could see steam coming off the deck.”
Fire on the Salam Mesra container ship in July 2018. PHOTO: SCDF
The heat conduction during a shipboard fire is tremendous compared to a building on land. “A fire can start in one cabin,” explained LTC Nazim, “but due to the conduction of the vessel’s metal plates, the heat can skip across other cabins and start a fire in a different part of the vessel.”
To fight the blaze, the firefighters used water monitors to cool the exterior of the Salam Mesra
. They also deployed powerful jets to penetrate into its cabins and douse the deep-seated fire. After five hours, the blaze was finally extinguished and all of the ship’s crew accounted for.
“My family understands the risks of what we do as lifesavers,” said LTC Nazim. “My wife will tell me to take care of myself, but she knows we’re trained and fully prepared.”
A Capable Fleet
Marine Division's fleet is ready to respond to emergencies in Singapore's coastal waters. PHOTO: SCDF
Since 2012, Marine Division has grown from two fireboats to a fleet of six state-of-the-art vessels custom-built for operations in Singapore waters. “We’ve learnt a lot over the years about the design, engineering and construction of marine firefighting vessels,” said LTC Nazim. “The infrastructure and equipment that we have now, compared to 10 years ago, is much more advanced.”
SCDF’s Unmanned Surface Vessel and Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. PHOTOS: Joash Tan
LTC Nazim is optimistic that there are more exciting breakthroughs to come for Marine Division. “Looking forward, we’ll be trialling an Unmanned Surface Vessel and Unmanned Aerial Vehicle for fire and rescue operations,” he said. “Ultimately, we want to leverage technology to work more effectively while reducing the risks that our firefighters face.”
At the 10th anniversary event for Marine Division. PHOTOS: Joash Tan
As one of the pioneers of Marine Division, LTC Nazim feels a sense of pride in celebrating its 10-year anniversary. “When you’re given a blank sheet of paper, you can create your own story,” he said. “We were clear about our vision and objectives from the beginning, and have built a good future for Marine Division.”
Read the speech by Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of National Development, at the 10th anniversary of SCDF Marine Division