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Forum: Time for a review of safety at sea framework

Forum writer Tan Teng Han’s idea of establishing a volunteer response team for maritime emergencies is noteworthy (Set up volunteer response team for maritime emergencies, Aug 8).

It is heartening that the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) is receptive to exploring Mr Tan’s suggestions (MPA welcomes community approach to enhance safety at sea, Aug 17).

Recent news reports of drowning incidents within Singapore’s waters over the past month are worrying. Drawing upon my qualifications as a search and rescue mission coordinator, I firmly believe it is time to conduct a thorough review of MPA’s safety at sea strategy.

This review should underscore the need for comprehensive reactive and preventive measures that cater to all segments of Singapore’s sea space users in a sustainable way.

MPA has admirably championed the promotion of safety at sea for the port, commercial shipping and leisure boating communities over the past decade.

The broader landscape of sea usage, as indicated in the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s long-term plan for sea space, however, encompasses diverse activities such as aquaculture, industries, utilities and recreation. This expansion means that numerous sea space users could potentially remain outside the purview of the current safety at sea framework, as the current set-up may not have the domain knowledge to take into account the needs and concerns of these sea space users.

I also suggest harnessing Singapore’s emerging 5G network infrastructure and digitalisation capabilities. An effective initial step could involve creating an official website for critical safety alerts, incidents and near-miss reports, lessons learnt and statistics.

In his letter, Mr Tan proposed having an emergency response arrangement similar to the MyResponder and SGSecure apps. Building on the idea of having an app for maritime incidents, I recommend augmenting its functionality to include a “water alert” feature.

This would empower sea space users to sustain heightened vigilance whenever reports arise of individuals missing at sea. The combined vigilance of the community – whether they are located far offshore, near shore or along the shoreline – could greatly enhance the likelihood of swiftly identifying someone in distress in the water.

This collective effort has the potential to play a crucial role in bolstering life-saving endeavours. 

Kuet Ee Yoon

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