Minister for Defense Dr Ng Eng Hen delivered the keynote address at the 7th International Maritime Security Conference (IMSC) July 28. Themed “Safe and Secure Seas – Maritime Security in the New Normal”, this year’s IMSC was held in a hybrid format with the majority of participants from 28 countries attending virtually.
In his address, Dr Ng highlighted how supply chain disruptions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic had exposed vulnerabilities in the interdependent global system. “Maritime trade – the lifeline of global trade and commerce – was impacted in many ways,” he said. “The disruption in supply chains was caused by the pandemic, with no inherent malfeasance and not aimed at any particular country. But it exposed an existing vulnerability which can be exploited by those who would do us harm intentionally.”
Dr Ng emphasized the need for more coordinated efforts across countries to deal with transnational threats such as terrorism, piracy, biological threats, climate change and other natural disasters, and that militaries can and must play an important role. He said that information-sharing and international rules on land, air and sea passage facilitate multilateral cooperation and prevent miscalculations.
Dr Ng cited the example of the Changi Regional HADR Coordination Centre (RHCC) working with regional and international partners to coordinate and facilitate COVID-19 assistance to affected countries in the region. Speaking on the importance of engagement and constant dialogue, he said, “Despite the pandemic, we must keep up our bilateral and multilateral exchanges …Safe and Secure Seas is a necessary fundamental for the well-being of today’s world. Without it, we cannot build our futures, either as individual countries or collectively.”
The 7th IMSC featured discussions on the importance of a rules-based maritime order, maintenance of peace in maritime commons, as well as ways to strengthen cooperation, trust, and connectivity amidst the pandemic. The speakers, who spoke either physically or virtually, included senior navy leadership from Australia, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Malaysia, United Kingdom and the United States, as well as maritime subject matter experts.
Established in 2009, the IMSC is co-organized by the Republic of Singapore Navy and the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies. The conference brings together navy chiefs, policy makers, strategic thinkers and maritime stakeholders to exchange ideas and discuss ways to enhance and foster mutual security in our maritime commons.