Firefighting on the high seas
TNP spends a day with SCDF officers specially trained to handle marine blazes
There are 130 Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) firefighters here trained to fight marine fires.
This after the SCDF took over such duties from the Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) in April 2012.
Lieutenant Keave Soh, 30, is one of them. The rotation (Rota) commander is stationed at the West Coast Marine Fire Station (WCMFS). He now wears an orange fire-fighting suit instead of a yellow one.
The New Paper spent a day with WCMFS officers for an exclusive look at their capabilities.
Lt Soh said: "When there is an incident out at sea, the environment you're in is so different.
"Imagine being in the dark, with the choppy waves and having to fight a fire using only limited manpower."
With only 18 officers in each Rota, the WCMFS has less manpower compared to other stations. Its commander, Major Neo Jia Qi, 34, said this means there is greater emphasis on training.
"Once we cast off from the jetty, we really are on our own. So, our guys need to be trained in a wide variety of skills and have them at their fingertips," he said.
He added that the marine fire station places heavy emphasis on height and confined space rescue operations during training, as these incidents could occur on vessels.
The station has two marine vessels: a Marine Fire Vessel (MFV) and a Marine Command Vessel. It also has a Red Rhino to respond to land incidents nearby.
When the SCDF took over MPA's marine emergency duties, the it inherited two boats, which they converted into MFVs. The other MFV is deployed at the Brani Marine Fire Station.
These boats, which have a maximum speed of 15 knots, have three fire monitors - one water monitor that can shoot 20,000 litres of water per minute and another two monitors capable of shooting 10,000 litres per minute of either foam or water.
They also have height rescue equipment, including pulley systems, frames and safety harnesses for extricating trapped casualties on ships.
After their basic courses as firefighters, marine firefighters have to undergo a five-week marine course.
Two weeks are spent at the Singapore Maritime Academy, while the rest are spent at the Civil Defence Academy and the ship simulator at the Home Team Tactical Centre (HTTC).
TNP visited the HTTC to observe the ship simulator, also known as Orca.
It is a realistic replication of a cargo ship where officers get to practise marine fire-fighting and rescue skills with different ship fire scenarios.
They must also be able to pilot various vessels.
Said Major Neo: "You really never know what can happen.
"Our officers may need to use cranes to transport logistics items from vessel to vessel or they need to know how to troubleshoot when vessels break down."
Operationally-ready national serviceman, Lt Kyaw Thet Tin, 26, works as a harbour pilot with PSA Corp and helps to map out the path the MFV takes during an incident.
Lt Tin, who received his Singapore citizenship two years ago, said: "It's important to get to the incident site as quickly and as safely as possible.
"I look at the charts and plot the best way to get from Point A to Point B."
Singapore was recently named the top maritime capital in the world for the third consecutive time, and the port remains one of the world's busiest and most important.
Major Neo added: "It's been exciting for us to expand our services to marine firefighting and rescue.
"No matter what happens out there, people and ships will be well taken care of."