Indonesia and Malaysia -- which also share the Malacca Strait -- are considering allowing weapons on ships after several pirate attacks this year revealed a bolder and more violent streak of the sea piracy that has bedevilled Southeast Asia for centuries.
Foreign ministers from Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia will meet on the Indonesian island of Batam next month to discuss allowing commercial vessels to arm themselves, but Singapore and Malaysia are alone in providing armed escorts in their waters.
"Within Singapore's section, I would say that is well guarded, well patrolled and very safe," said Michael Richardson, author of "A Time Bomb for Global Trade", a book about the Malacca and Singapore straits.
"The problem is when you get into particularly the Indonesian controlled section of both the Singapore Strait and the Malacca Strait," said Richardson, now a researcher at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.
ASSeT details as provided by the Singapore Defence Ministry:
Maritime security is a multi-agency effort and each agency has an important role to play. The RSN works closely with our neighbouring countries and national agencies such as the Police Coast Guard, Maritime and Port Authority as well as the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority to carry out co-ordinated patrols and 24/7 maritime security patrols in Singapore waters.(sources here)
The 180 Sqn was recently set up within the RSN to perform two critical functions. The first function is to analyse the shipping data and identify high interest merchant vessels. This is no easy task given that about 1,000 vessels transit daily through Singapore Straits. The second function is to provide security to selected vessels in our waters through the deployment of armed sea marshals, or Accompanying Sea Security Teams, also known as ASSeT.
ASSeT personnel will be placed on selected merchant vessels to deter and to prevent any terrorist activity onboard these vessels in Singapore waters. ASSeT will embark together with the PSA’s Harbour Pilot for vessels that are calling into or leaving the Port of Singapore. When onboard, ASSeT will be deployed to various parts of the ship to provide security. ASSeT will disembark together with the Harbour Pilot when the vessel is berthed or when the vessel is about to leave Singapore waters.