Published: 01 April 2022
Commissioner Eric Yap
Home Team colleagues
1. I am happy to join all of you here today, to celebrate the SCDF Marine Division’s 10-year anniversary. Please join me in giving a big round of applause to our men and women of the SCDF Marine Division.
Marine Division’s Journey
2. Between 2012 to 2021, the SCDF Marine Division responded to 56 fire incidents and 77 rescue incidents. Some notable incidents include:
(a) The Jalan Samulun Shipyard Fire in March 2013. This was the first time SCDF’s Marine and Land resources were jointly activated, and worked together to put out the fire;
(b) A container ship fire in July 2018, the first time our Rapid Response Fire Vessels were activated for a major fire incident; and
(c) The night rescue of an injured crew member aboard a vessel in August 2021, who had fallen off a ladder and was immobilised. The casualty had to be lowered cautiously from great height, from the vessel’s upper deck onto the awaiting rescue vessel.
3. These incidents were well managed by the officers despite challenging environmental conditions, rough sea state and hours of darkness, because we have invested over the years, time and resources to build up the infrastructure and capabilities of the Marine Division.
4. As an international maritime hub, Singapore is one of the world’s busiest container ports and the top refuelling port for ships. A vast number of ships come through Singapore daily. With the new Tuas Mega Port project, our port operations will be further expanded.
5. But this also means that the threats we face in our waters are multiplying, be it fire and rescue incidents, chemical, biological and radiological incidents, or even terrorist incidents.
6. These highlight the critical role that the Marine Division plays, and the need for the Marine Division to continue enhancing its capacity and capabilities to deal with the wide range of incidents.
Building up Operational Infrastructure
7. At its inception in April 2012, the Marine Command only had two Marine Fire Vessels which SCDF had taken over from the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore. Over the next ten years, the Marine Division continued to develop and enhance its capabilities.
8. We established two Marine Fire Stations and two Fire Posts – West Coast Marine Fire Station, Brani Marine Fire Station, Loyang Marine Fire Post and Gul Marine Fire Post. This has improved the coverage and response of the Marine Division to different parts of Singapore waters.
9. In 2017, we launched the Rapid Response Fire Vessels (RFV), a fast and nimble vessel, which greatly improved response time to maritime emergencies.
10. With the expanded capabilities and responsibilities, the Marine Command was redesignated in April 2019 to become the Marine Division as we know today.
11. And in August 2019, we commissioned three state-of-the-art firefighting and rescue vessels – the Heavy Fire Vessel, Heavy Rescue Vessel and Marine Rescue Vessel. The introduction of these three vessels have greatly bolstered the Marine Division’s emergency response given the advanced technology and capabilities built in. With the Heavy Fire Vessel turning fully operational today, we mark a significant moment where all three heavy vessels are now fully operational.
12. Today, the SCDF Marine Division has a fleet of six vessels that stand ready to respond to incidents within Singapore’s territorial waters.
Building up our manpower capabilities
13. Besides building up our infrastructure and equipment, we also invested much resources to train and develop the officers. From a primarily land-based fire and rescue force, SCDF has built up a team of highly competent officers that can respond to marine incidents.
14. I am proud to say that the SCDF Marine Division is among a few marine fire and rescue services in the world, with a dedicated emergency response crew that is capable of both helming the firefighting vessels and conducting fire and rescue operations.
15. It achieved this capability within a short period of 4 years. This self-helming approach enhances response capabilities to maritime emergencies, as it enables tighter coordination and synergy between the navigation of the vessel and the conduct of fire and rescue operations.
16. Ultimately, it is the people that make the organisation who we are today. The pioneers of the SCDF Marine Division took up the challenge of establishing the Division from scratch with courage, determination, and confidence. Teams that came after them followed with unwavering dedication and hard work, to conceptualise different vessel designs, and undertake the skills and competency training to operate the systems. Credit should also be given to our Full-time and Operationally Ready National Servicemen, who worked hand in hand with our marine officers.
17. I would like to take this chance to express my appreciation to the past and present teams, that have worked hard to bring the SCDF Marine Division to where it is today.
Acknowledging Key Partners
18. Over the years, the Marine Division has also built close partnerships with many agencies. During a maritime emergency, this close partnership and inter-operability of the Marine Division with other agencies is critical, to ensure an emergency response operation can be conducted efficiently and effectively. The partner agencies also supported the development of SCDF’s maritime emergency response capabilities.
19. I would like to thank our key partners who have also joined us today – The Police Coast Guard, Immigration and Checkpoints Authority, Maritime Security Task Force, Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, and the Home Team Science and Technology Agency. I am certain that the Marine Division will continue this close partnership with them, while also forging new partnerships going forward.
The Next Lap – Enhancing Marine Response Capabilities
20. With ten years in the bag, where do we go from here?
21. The next lap of the Marine Division’s journey will focus on enhancing our response capabilities by leveraging more advanced technologies.
22. Proof-of-Concept trials are already ongoing to test the use of unmanned technologies for fire and rescue operations, such as the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) and the Unmanned Surface Vessel (USV). For example, we can use a UAV to send a buoy to a person in distress in the water, it can also be deployed to enhance situational awareness and HazMat detection. The USV can be deployed for firefighting in high-risk situations, such as when there is a risk of explosions. Using unmanned technologies will help SCDF more optimally and safely deploy its resources.
23. SCDF is also conducting further studies on its next generation of marine vessels which will have enhanced capabilities for firefighting and casualty evacuation. We target to expand the fleet to ten vessels by 2029.
24. Complementing the enhancement and expansion of the fleet will be the operationalisation of the Punggol Marine Fire Post and the new Marine Division HQ. Scheduled to be completed by 2025, the new Punggol Marine Fire Post will improve response times in the north-eastern parts of Singapore. The new Marine Division HQ will support the overall administration and command and control of all the Marine Fire Stations and Fire Posts.
25. All these will ensure we can effectively keep up with the growing operational demands in our waters.
26. Once again, let me congratulate the Marine Division on this milestone.
27. Much has been achieved over the past 10 years. I would like to thank our officers for their hard work, and our partners for their support. By continuously enhancing our marine response capabilities and capacity, including through the adoption of new technologies, I am confident that SCDF’s Marine Division will be able to continue keeping our waters safe and secure.
28. On that note, thanks for having me and I look forward to the rest of the programme. Thank you.