- Recent proliferation of submarines poses security risks for the Asia-Pacific region, says Singapore
- The RSN has proposed four areas for navies to collaborate in enhancing regional underwater safety
20 May 2015
Singapore has warned that the recent proliferation of submarines in the Asia-Pacific region could be "an accident waiting to happen" and has proposed an operational framework to reduce the possibility of submarine-related incidents.
The proposal was made by Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) chief Rear Admiral Lai Chung Han on 20 May during the International Maritime Security Conference at the IMDEX 2015 exhibition in Singapore.
"With increasing numbers of submarines operating in that congested and confined water space, it's perhaps no exaggeration to say that it is an accident waiting to happen," said Rear Adm Lai. He estimated that navies in the Asia-Pacific region could operate more than 130 diesel-electric submarines (SSKs) by 2020, giving rise to a congested and dangerous underwater environment in the region.
The admiral highlighted the International Submarine Escape and Rescue Liaison Office as a good example of what could be emulated in the proposed framework, adding that the RSN's Information Fusion Centre (IFC) located at Changi Naval Base will be supporting this new effort by setting up a dedicated submarine information portal. The IFC currently facilitates the exchange of information, mostly on piracy-related incidents, between regional navies.
However, Adm Lai has acknowledged that the issue of submarine operations remains very sensitive in the region and that navies are unlikely to divulge information on submarine locations or other operational details.
He said that the framework can start by addressing four areas where co-operation is most needed. These are: the exchange of non-sensitive information on activities that may endanger a submarine, such as dredging and other underwater activities; sharing of best practices in training and certification of submariners; setting common standards in terms of submarine safety regimes; and establishing a code of conduct that can guide submariners on what to do should their boat unexpectedly encounter another underwater vessel during an operation.
Adm Lai urged navies in the region to consider these proposals in pursuing the common interest of ensuring the safety of submariners in the region. "The last thing we need is an underwater accident and we know the consequences for such accidents are catastrophic," he said.