January 29, 2010

Port of Singapore’s Counter Terrorism Preparedness

WEBLINK: http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers37/paper3637.html

Guest Column by Sushant Deb

General Overview

The Port of Singapore (POS) refers to the collective facilities and terminals that conduct maritime trade handling functions in Singapore’s harbours and which handle Singapore’s shipping.The Port of Singapore has long been an important duty-free trading post for the British Empire, and it is today a major international trade center. It boasts Southeast Asia's most advanced economy, housing major finance and industry sectors. The POS is not a mere economic boon, but an economic necessity due to the fact that Singapore is lacking in land and natural resources.

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) is the port authority for the POS. The MPA licenses and regulates port and maritime services and facilities in the POS and manages vessel traffic. The goal of the MPA is the development and promotion of the POS as a world-class international center and the preservation of Singapore's maritime interest. Lying at the crossroads of international ocean-going trade routes, the Port of Singapore receives an average of 140 thousand vessels per year carrying about 30 million containers, 500 million tons of cargo, and a million cruise passengers. The MPA also plans the POS's development, including the use of both sea and waterfront areas. The MPA is working to meet increasing future demands by deepening channels and developing modern next-generation terminals for the Port of Singapore.

In 2008, the Port of Singapore handled more than 515.4 million tons of cargo, including 308.5 million tons of containerized cargo (29.9 million TEUs), 27.9 million tons of conventional cargo, 167.3 million tons of bulk oil cargo, and 11.7 million tons of non-oil bulk cargo. These cargoes, as well as over 33 thousand passengers, were carried by a total of 131.7 thousand vessels through the Port of Singapore in 2008. Among these were 20.6 thousand container ships, 9.3 thousand bulk carriers, 19.5 thousand tankers, over five thousand freighters, 4.6 thousand coasters, 14 thousand barges, and 13.7 thousand tugs. In 2008, the POS served 13.8 thousand oil tankers, 3.8 thousand chemical tankers, and 1.9 thousand liquefied petroleum and natural gas tankers. Passengers traveled on more than one thousand passenger vessels and 32.6 thousand regional ferries.

The POS contains three major anchorage areas: the Eastern Sector, the Jurong Sector, and the Western Sector. The POS's Eastern Sector contains the Changi General Purpose Anchorage for general purposes, for vessels needing immigration clearance, for vessels traveling to the shipyards and facilities in the East Johor Strait, and for ships moving supplies or changing crews. The Jurong Anchorage Sector contains the Very Large Crude Carrier Anchorage and the LNG/LPG/Chemical Gas Carriers Anchorage for tankers needing immigration clearance. The Western Anchorage Sector in the POS contains the Western Quarantine and Immigration Anchorage for vessels that must be quarantined and cleared by immigration. The Western Anchorage in the Port of Singapore is used for general purposes like receiving supplies, water, bunkers, and for vessels awaiting berthing facilities in the west other than non-gas free petroleum carriers, liquefied petroleum and natural gas carriers, and chemical carriers.

PSA Corporation serving POS also manages two multi-purpose terminals at Pasir Panjang at the Sembawang Wharves. These POS terminals offer many port-related services including warehouses, open storage, and facilities for break-bulk and specialized cargoes. The POS's Asia Automobile Terminal (Singapore) makes PSA terminals a fast-growing major automotive transshipment hub for the region. Jurong Port, the other main terminal operator for the POS, specializes in bulk and conventional cargoes. It handles steel products, project cargoes, cement, copper slag, and many other products. Employing extensive pipeline and conveyor system networks for loading/unloading; the Jurong Port is also a hub for metals storage and transshipment. The Jurong Port, another POS Operator, also manages a container terminal with capacity for 1.4 million TEUs per year. The Jurong Port boasts multi-purpose functionality that can easily accommodate dual cargoes efficiently at the same berth.

The POS contains three public landing areas: West Coast Pier, Marina South Pier, and Changi Point Ferry Terminal. The West Coast Pier serves the public en route to/from vessels in the Western Anchorage Sector. The Marina South Pier serves the public moving to/from the Eastern Anchorage Sector, and the Marine South Pier has facilities available for rent. The Port of Singapore's Changi Point Ferry Terminal is in the northern sector, and it serves people traveling to/from the outlying islands in the northern sector, including Pluau Ubin and Palau Tekong. These POS landing areas offer places to eat and shop, launch and ferry services, and facilities for immigration and customs.

Despite the recent international financial crisis, the Port of Singapore fared relatively well. It was one of the world's busiest ports in shipping tonnage, container throughput, and bunker sales while also maintaining its position as one of the most efficient and safest ports in the world. Vessel calls and container traffic increased in 2008, and the Port of Singapore experienced several "firsts."

Protecting the Port

For security and safety purpose, the POS fully complies with the requirements of ISPS (International Ship and Port Facility Security) code. The MPA has developed a ‘Port Security Manual’ (PSM) for the Singapore port facilities and updates through ‘Port Marine Circulars/Notices’. This PSM provides the shipping community with information on maritime security gathered from the Asia Pacific Economic Conference (APEC) economies. The manual uses Singapore’s own experience and contains best practices for port facility on conducting drills and exercises and Declaration of security (DOS).Under the APEC, the APEC Transportation Working Group identified the need for port facilities in the ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) member countries to share and align their best practices. The MPA also worked closely with leaders of maritime agencies from its neighboring countries of Malaysia and Indonesia in 2008 to enhance Strait of Malacca and Singapore navigational protection. The three countries launched a “Cooperative Mechanism” and launched the Cooperation Forum and Project Coordination Committee in 2008. Singapore has supported and contributed materials to this development as a member of the APEC Maritime Expert Group. Selected best practices are available from this page and they cover the areas such as: Manual on Port Security Measures and Manual of Maritime security Drills and Exercises for Port facility. Going beyond the ISPS Code, the MPA has introduced additional measures such as: Harbor Craft Security Code, Pleasure Craft Security Code, Ship Self-security Assessment, and Restricted Areas around Key installations.

Other laws to protect the POS include the following:

(A) Maritime And Port Authority Of Singapore Act (Cap. 170A)
Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA)
Laws covering the functions and powers of MPA, including the regulation of port activities (e.g. port clearance procedures for ships arriving to and departing from Singapore, harbor pilot requirements, etc.).

(B) Merchant Shipping Act (Cap. 179) Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA)
Laws relating to the registration, safety requirements and licensing of ships, harbor craft, crew members and ship officers, as well as regulations on the unloading and delivery of goods in Singapore ports.

(C) Merchant Shipping (Civil Liability And Compensation For Oil Pollution) Act (Cap. 180)
Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA)
Laws relating to insurance requirements and compensation by commercial ships for oil pollution in Singapore ports and waters.

(D) Prevention Of Pollution Of The Sea Act (Cap. 243)
Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA)
Laws and regulations covering preventive measures against pollution of Singapore waters, as well as penalties for unauthorized discharge of oil, refuse and effluents by ships and ship-supply vehicles.

(E) Telecommunications Act And Telecommunications (Radio-Communication) Regulations (Cap. 323) Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA)
Laws relating to licensing and regulation of telecommunications systems and services, including maritime radio-communications equipment installed onboard Singapore-registered harbor craft and ships.

Current Security Measures

Installing hardware (HW) and software (SW) for port security is, in general, very challenging due to complex intertwining processes within. The most commonly used security hardware in Singapore includes intruder alarm systems, access control systems, CCTV systems, central alarm monitoring system, X-Ray machines, and door-entry systems. Security software including anti-virus systems and low level firewall solutions, are found in Singapore. The network design of the POS, however, spans several control centers located around the four main terminals. The network is necessary to heighten operational efficiency through integration of surveillance across these terminals and to enable a range of technologies to be implemented throughout. Because of continuing operations of the POS, analytical processing is commissioned by the port to prevent backlogs and bottlenecks occurring at various locales of the port operations. To maximize the functionality and effectiveness of all cameras and fibre optic infrastructure, the POS uses X-Net Nano encoders using Ethernet transmission. Of course, CCTV technology is used to cover all dispersed areas. The challenge is to minimize down time in a 24 x 365 days operations; and the POS record on IT efficiency is quite commendable. Since March 2009, the Singapore Navy, in particular, those patrolling boats/ships around the POS, is installing the new LRAD (Long Range Acoustic Device) technology contracting an organization that also services the LRAD requirements of the US Navy. The LRAD directed sound products and systems communicate from 300 meters to over 1500 meters with authority and high intelligibility through vocal commands and powerful warning tones to influence behaviour, gain compliance, and determine intent. Since September 2009, the POS is engaging in the application of a new container scanning technology that utilizes spectral analysis to verify container contents. A radiation container scanning is performed by this new technology to determine the presence of special nuclear materials. Singapore was one of the 18 original countries to Join the US Container Security Initiative (CSI) after the 9/11 attacks. The POS Authorities pre-screen and target high risk cargo containers bound for the US. The technology platform is being installed in the POS on crane spreaders, straddle carriers, shuttle carriers, and other mobile equipment (e.g., marine vessels engaged in security operations). This port security mounted system performs gamma and neutron sensitivity scanning during container movement in the normal course of port operations.

Singapore is continuously leveraging on science & technology in counter terrorism and homeland security. With the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), with known link with al Qaida next door in Malaysia and Indonesia, bio-terrorism is a reality. For the POS, many Contracting Governments set security levels and ensure that the current security level information is making known to ships and their respective flag States. These ships include those operating and those intending to enter their territorial seas. These requirements for Contracting Governments come from the provisions of SOLAS regulation XI-2/3 and XI-2/7, which relates to threats to ships at sea. The information provided includes:

  • current security level;
  • security measures to be put in place for ships; and
  • security measures that coastal States decide to put in place.

The MPA represents the Contracting Government for Singapore. Furthermore, to counter and deter potential seaborne threats to POS, a division of Singapore Police Force called Police Coast Guard (PCG) patrols the POS waters on an going basis using patrol boats/crafts. In 2009, with the help of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) of USA, the PCG is equipping the coastal petrol crafts with improved surveillance systems, radars, and other equipments to identify and track the movement of vessels. The PCG roles are to enforce law and maintain order in Singapore territorial waters and to prevent and detect crime. It has four bases which are strategically located across the island.

Appropriateness of Current Efforts

Singapore is the home of the busiest port in the world. The Malacca and Singapore Straits also see about 1,400 vessels pass through their narrow channels each day. Security in the straits has global implications. In Singapore, the maritime security is the responsibility of three agencies: the navy, the port authority, and the coast guard. The activities of the coast guard are described above. The Maritime Security Center established in 2008 is staffed with representatives of the coast guard, port authority and navy. The institute serves as a ‘think tank’ dwelling on strategic issues including maritime counter terrorism.

The POS made sure as early as 2004 to comply with the requirements of IMO’s ISPS Code. In addition, for vessels arriving at POS that are not required to comply with the ISPS Code would have to complete a “Ship Self-Security Assessment Checklist” prior to entering port waters. This was a unique feature first introduced in Asia by the POS.

Singapore has also joined the CSI efforts by USA. As it is known, CSI is essential to securing global trade against terrorist exploitation. This is very appropriate since the transhipments at the POS are the busiest in the world. Over 400,000 sea cargo containers enter the US from the POS.

Probable Threats & Suggested Measures

Hub ports, like POS, are potential lucrative targets for terrorists. It is a known fact that terrorist groups, some with alliance with al Qaeda, are very active in next door neighbours Malaysia, Indonesia and in Philippines. These include: Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) both based in Philippines; Free Aceh Movement (GAM) based in Indonesia; and Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) based in Malaysia and Indonesia. A recently known group, Raja Sulaiman Jihad (RSJ) associated with ABG, is using newly Muslim converts in terrorist activities in Philippines.

While container tankers seem to be most obvious sources, there are other ‘unlooked’ sources may be possible to be used by the terrorists. Threats could come from combination of many sources such as:

  1. Tankers, LNG Tankers, Chemical Tankers, Container Ships, freighters, Bulkers, Oceangoing Tugboats, and Cruise/Passenger Ships originating from ports who are not complying the ISPS Code

  2. Tankers, LNG Tankers, Chemical Tankers, Container Ships, freighters, Bulkers, Oceangoing Tugboats, and Cruise/Passenger Ships originating from transhipment or stop-over ports without any LRAD or similar technology.

  3. Passenger Ferry and Tugboats used for short-hauls.

  4. Casino Boats.

  5. Fishing Vessels/Boats

While al Qaida threat is always there, the presence of other terrorist groups in the area poses most threat, since they will try to emulate al Qaeda type techniques; they may be not as well-organized like al Qaeda nor they are well funded like al Qaeda, but they do follow the philosophy. Singapore has been identified as an ally of US and thus faces their wrath. Based on the statistics of violence brought by the groups like JI, GAM, MILF, RSJ and ASG, it may be reasonable to believe that the technology skill levels of these groups may not be that sophisticated. These terrorists may link up with pirates to hijack carriers of LPG and turn them into floating bombs to disable POS. These may be accomplished using fishing boats.

If there is any attack on the POS by these groups, this author believes, it will be by means of smaller boats / speedboats conducting suicide missions damaging/destroying bigger vessels. Another means would be perhaps piracy-hijacking of cruise ships-ferry boats to create sensations. The fishing boats/smaller boats may be yet another unique mode to intrude the POS waters to do damages/destruction of those bigger boats/vessels anchored with ‘significant cargo’. And, finally, they might use the Blue Seal suicide model of (now defunct) LTTE, again using smaller boats, to detonate ‘dirty bomb’ in the POS waters. While larger vessels (commercial and passenger) are regulated according to maritime laws, smaller fishing boats/vessels are not in that category. For example, many countries do not require background checks of fishing boat crews/mariners.

This author finds of the measures are already in place at the POS, such as: ANMS, X-Ray and metal detection system, container tracking and tracing equipment, LRAD, ShipLoc, AIS, SS-V system, and Contraffic. These are all good for the ports as well as ships as long as these hardware and software methods are subscribed by all parties concerned. This author suggests following measures:

  1. Utilize UAVs to identify the movement of smaller boats, fishing boats, small tug boats, etc. (given the technological advantage this method may be very helpful in near future).

  2. Discourage transhipment / stop-overs of ships coming from ports with no compliance with ISPS Codes (and also CSI requirements which is an US initiative) OR mandate the network of ports from which ships are originating to come to Singapore comply to these codes.

  3. Coordinate the piracy-hijacking vigilance of the Malacca and Singapore Straits with Malaysia and Indonesia (and if possible, with Philippines and Thailand).

  4. Work with the national immigration and homeland security at ferry boat terminals, cruise ship searches.

(Sushant Deb consults on Aviation Safety-Security-Quality-Counter Terrorism management systems. He is a member of Flight Safety Foundation (FSF) , American Society for Quality (ASQ), and International Association of Counterterrorism and Security Professionals (IACSP). Dr. Deb also holds a Certificate in Terrorism Studies (UK).)


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