Navy intel centre helps keep region's water safe

Information Fusion Centre tip-off led to capture

Indonesia's seizure of an alleged "slave ship" grabbed the headlines in April, but the successful operation relied on a tip-off from a maritime intel-sharing centre based in Singapore.

The Information Fusion Centre (IFC), which is hosted by the Republic of Singapore Navy, has revealed its role in the operation, which involved sharing intelligence with similar outfits and regional collaboration.

It was one of several successful operations that the IFC has had a role in in recent years.

The stateless STS-50, a fishing vessel wanted by Interpol, had left Madagascar for the Strait of Malacca.

The IFC was alerted and tracked its location for days, with information from the France International Liaison Officer (ILO) and Madagascar IFC.

The IFC then tipped off the Indonesian Navy about the possibility of the vessel entering its territorial waters, leading to the successful capture.

The vessel had a notorious maritime reputation. The mostly-Indonesian crew reported that they had not been paid and that their passports and other documents had been taken away when they boarded the ship nearly a year earlier.

Senior Lieutenant-Colonel Raymond Ong, the IFC's head, told The Straits Times: "This incident highlights the merits of real-time information-sharing and how the IFC is a key platform to facilitate this."

The IFC, which was set up in 2009, plays a key role in securing the region's waters against maritime security threats such as piracy, sea robbery, weapons proliferation and maritime terrorism, as well as contraband and drug smuggling.

Earlier this year, the IFC tracked the vessel MV Sunrise Glory, which was suspected of contraband trafficking, for three months.

The Indonesian Navy was tipped off by the IFC, leading to the vessel's capture off Batam. It was found to be carrying a tonne of crystal methamphetamine hidden in rice sacks.

The number of piracy and sea robbery incidents in the region fell from 179 in 2015 to 84 incidents last year.

In the Malacca and Singapore straits, there was a 90 per cent drop in the same period.