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Maritime security to be strengthened with more physical barriers

SINGAPORE — Another 80km of physical barriers, such as fencing and floating sea barriers, will be erected to cover about 70 per cent of the Republic’s coastline to prevent illegal entry, said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Teo Chee Hean in Parliament yesterday.

Waters off the National Service Resort and Country Club in Changi. TODAY file photo

Waters off the National Service Resort and Country Club in Changi. TODAY file photo

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SINGAPORE — Another 80km of physical barriers, such as fencing and floating sea barriers, will be erected to cover about 70 per cent of the Republic’s coastline to prevent illegal entry, said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Teo Chee Hean in Parliament yesterday.

These barriers have been put up where feasible to deter illegal landing at vulnerable areas, he said. And together with the coordinated and multilayered security regime that maritime security agencies have been improving and tightening over the years, these measures have proven to be “generally successful”, said Mr Teo.

Currently, there are 63km of such land- and sea-based barriers around Singapore’s shores, and there are plans to erect another 80km of these, he added.

“These will cover 143km of our 197km coastline, deterring and preventing illegal entry and channelling vessels,” Mr Teo told Parliament. “This allows our security agencies to focus their attention on areas and vessels that are more likely to pose a threat.”

In response to media queries, a Ministry of Home Affairs spokesperson said the first 30km of the additional barriers would be erected by around 2019, with the rest to be completed thereafter.

Mr Teo was responding to a question raised by Member of Parliament Hri Kumar Nair about the steps the Government has taken to secure Singapore’s borders and prevent the unauthorised entry of people and goods into the country, in the wake of three foreigners entering Singapore illegally in August through Raffles Marina.

In that incident, a woman had sought the help of two foreigners to sneak into Singapore by sea, in an attempt to wrest her two-year-old son from her husband’s family. She and the boatman were each sentenced to 10 weeks’ imprisonment, while the third foreigner, managing director of non-governmental organisation Child Abduction Recovery International, got 16 weeks in jail.

Yesterday, Mr Teo pointed out that while Singapore’s land and aviation domains were areas where the authorities can funnel and control the movement of people entering or leaving the country, the policing of the maritime domain is far more complex.

For instance, the distance between the international boundary and Singapore’s shoreline is short — in some places, it is less than 500m — compared with the length of the coastline, he noted. Many of the 180 wharves and jetties dotting Singapore’s shoreline are also within private premises, such as shipyards and marinas.

The high volume of sea traffic within and across Singapore’s waters also poses a daily challenge for the maritime agencies, he added. Last year, about 140,000 foreign vessels — ranging from large passenger and cargo vessels, to small pleasure, trading and fishing craft — called into Singapore.

From 2011 to last year, 46 vessels were seized for intruding to Singapore, while 144 people were arrested for entering Singapore waters illegally or attempting to land illegally by sea, said Mr Teo.

Last year, 2,890 vessels were detected and stopped from entering Singapore’s territorial waters. The majority of these vessels had strayed off course and complied with instructions from the authorities, he added. Forty-nine people were also arrested for entering Singapore waters illegally or attempting to land illegally by sea.

Mr Teo said the Ministry of Home Affairs would continue to work with relevant agencies and private partners to review and tighten security processes, including studying the August incident. The Home Team agencies and their maritime security partners will also further review the security regime and work closely with stakeholders in the coming months to put in place any additional measures needed to keep Singapore’s waters and borders safe and secure, he added.

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