Singapore to shake up task force to tackle rise in piracy

MSTF patrol vessel in the Singapore Strait. Credit: STFILE

Singapore will increase its efforts in the fight against piracy and sea robberies in the Straits of Singapore and Malacca by restructuring its Maritime Security Task Force (MSTF).

“The review is expected to be complete in the next few months,” defence minister Ng Eng Hen said on 3 February, according to a statement from the Singapore Ministry of Defence.

Over the last year there has been an increase in piracy and sea robberies in the Singapore Strait, rising from 7 incidents in 2018 to 31 in 2019, according to the annual report of Asian regional piracy reporting centre. In the last two months, there has been a recorded 12 incidents in the strait, including a barge being robbed twice in the same day.

Defence minister Ng said neighbouring countries in the region are committed to holding joint quarterly exercises to improve information sharing processes, especially as pirates and robbers operating in the Singapore and Malacca Straits are based outside of Singapore’s territorial waters. As such, the Republic of Singapore is hoping the restructuring will promote more intelligence sharing with Malaysia and Indonesia.

The MSTF, an offshoot of the Singapore Navy, works with maritime and law enforcement agencies to protect and guard Singapore’s waters. This includes carrying out daily patrols of the Singapore Strait as well as escort operations and boardings.