Two fatal collision occurred in the Singapore Strait, resulting in the death of twelve sailors and potentially adding three more to the equation. The collision occurred on 21 August and 13 September, and this has raised safety concerns with Singapore’s plans to be a major maritime hub.
In response to the collision on 21 August, Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), has reflected that its Vessel Traffic Information System had alerted both vessels to take the necessary actions to avoid the incident. However, although information was successfully transmitted, the accident could not be averted. It is important to note that both accidents occurred in the early morning, when visibility is low.
There are about 130,000 vessels calls at the Port of Singapore annually, that is about one vessel leaving or arriving Singapore every two to three minutes, making Singapore’s sea lanes one of the world’s busiest. The opening of the new port at Tuas will be able to handle a larger volume of ships, making Singapore waters busier and more challenging to navigate.
Safety or operational gaps that exist must be address to ensure that the port can go incident-free. In order to sail ‘safely’, vessels are mandated by international law (e.g. equipped with radar, monitoring and tracking devices etc.). Regulators that manage the waters also have state-of-the-art technology and systems that are in placed to monitor movements in the water. However, industry players mentioned that despite the technology that are in place, relevant personnel are not well trained enough to fully maximised the various technology to their advantage – inadequate training and poor practices undermine the technology and other precautions that are implemented.
The number of ship movements in Singapore are still expected to increase, MPA ought to consider taking on a wider role in managing and directing vessels, albeit this is not the industrial norm.
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