Govt-wide anti-terror drill on land and at sea

SINGAPORE - Singapore has mounted one of its largest counter-terrorism drills to put security forces through mock attacks at sea and on land.

The government-wide exercise, codenamed Highcrest, involved some 1,600 people from more than 20 agencies.

They included elite crack units from the Singapore Armed Forces and Singapore Police Force, as well as Singapore Civil Defence Force and Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore personnel.

A key part of the 10-day exercise, which ends today, is to finetune the way the National Maritime Security System (NMSS) - Singapore's multi-agency security watchgroup - works with its partners to pre-empt and cripple attacks at sea and on land.

Witnessing the penultimate day of the exercise were Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, and Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen. Also present were Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim, Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew, and Second Home Affairs Minister S. Iswaran.

They saw how troops stormed a hijacked passenger ferry and intercepted "terrorists" speeding towards Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal.

Also on show were the police's anti-swarming team, which "gunned down" four masked "gunmen" at the terminal, and firefighters, who put out blazes caused by "exploding bombs".

PM Lee told reporters it was important to get different agencies to work together to thwart any threats that could come from the sea or that could have infiltrated the land.

"They have to work seamlessly together, otherwise there will be some miscommunication, some clash in the plans or in the execution and then we will be in trouble," said PM Lee. "So it's not easy to do, to get many agencies to work together and we have to keep on practising it, ironing out the kinks, but most important of all, to start off with, to put the system in place where they are working together."

Yesterday's drill was the culmination of two years of tests and training since the NMSS was set up and first tried out during Exercise Northstar VIII in 2011. The watchgroup will be fully operational today.

Explaining the need for a joint exercise, Rear-Admiral Jackson Chia, who heads naval operations in the Navy, said the complexity of maritime security threats requires a centralised effort "to drive an integrated and coordinated whole-of-government approach." Doing so will take advantage of the expertise and resources of all the different security agencies responsible for maritime and land safety, he said.

He added that compared to two years ago, the NMSS is now better able to coordinate efforts between sea and land forces.

Said Rear-Adm Chia: "Once you have the same lexicon, you use the same language, you know one another; when it comes to inter-operability it will certainly be much smoother."

Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.