ARABIAN SEA: Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen said Singapore will re—evaluate whether to continue sending personnel and assets to the Gulf of Aden for future counter piracy missions.
Speaking to reporters during his visit to the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) task group currently deployed there, Dr Ng said Singapore’s position is not static.
Dr Ng was on board the frigate RSS Intrepid to witness a counter—piracy drill.
The 145—strong task group was sent out earlier this month and consists of personnel from the Navy, Air Force and Army.
This is the fourth SAF deployment in the Gulf of Aden since 2009.
So far, the frigate has received two distress calls from vessels during its patrols.
Pirate activities in the Gulf of Aden, located off the coast of Somalia, have decreased substantially.
Statistics from the Combined Maritime Forces showed that for the first nine months of this year, there were only six hijacking incidents.
The Combined Maritime Forces led by US is a coalition of 26 countries, in which Singapore is a member.
In comparison, 21 attacks were reported last year, and 29 in 2010, over the same period.
Dr Ng said: "Piracy attacks have come down. We will join others in deciding when the military presence is less required...At least we will continue for this deployment. Whether there will be subsequent one or a few more deployments, we will see how (the situation) is, because there are a number of factors that have brought down the piracy attacks."
Various multi—national teams charged with combating piracy at the Gulf of Aden have contributed to the drop in attacks.
In addition, more commercial vessels have employed deterrent measures on board.
More than 70 per cent of ships passing through the Gulf of Aden have such measures.
Colonel Frederick Chew, Commander for the SAF Task Group, said: "These include having concertina wires around the upper deck of the ships and having fire hoses to repel pirates. All these self—defence measures have been very important in deterring and making it harder for pirates to board the ship and take the crew for ransom.
"On top of that, the merchant community has also been employing arms security teams and to date, we know that no ships with armed security teams on board that are able to repel the pirates have been hijacked."
Dr Ng added that even though piracy attacks have dropped, commercial vessels still need time to step up their best management practices.
This is the first time the SAF has sent a frigate and a naval helicopter for counter—piracy efforts in the Gulf of Aden. Previously, a Landing Ship Tank had been used.
The Navy said it is not unusual to send a warship like this as other coalition forces have deployed similar assets.
In addition, Dr Ng said deploying both assets is a good opportunity to test their capabilities. He added that the Navy might consider sending its other frigates to the Gulf of Aden in future.
The Gulf of Aden is a 2.8 million square kilometres waterway which accounts for a large portion of global trade.
Some 30,000 vessels ply the waterway every year.
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