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Introducing Harbour Craft Transponder System (HARTS) in the Port of Singapore

Maritime and port security remains a key concern for Singapore as it is the busiest port in the world in terms of shipping tonnage. Apart from the ocean going vessels that call at our port everyday, there are also many small harbour and pleasure craft plying our port waters. Reality has shown that small craft could be exploited and used as a conduit to target bigger ships and port facilities. The terrorist attack on the French tanker Limburg by a small boat off the Yemeni coast in October 2002 is frequently cited as an example.

In managing our global port, the Mar itime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and the security agencies take the responsibility of keeping a closer watch over small craft very seriously. Relying on radar systems alone is not enough and following a successful trial, we introduced a vessel tracking system known as the Harbour Craft Transponder System (HARTS) as an added defence against potential threats of attacks by small craft. This paper provides an overview of the implementation of HARTS.

Introduction

In 2005, the Port of Singapore received more than 130,000 vessel arrivals totalling 1.15 billion gross tons (GT). Apart from the ocean going vessels that call at our port everyday, there are also many harbour and pleasure craft plying our port waters. Most of these craft are small passenger launches, tug boats and bunker barges. Being less than 300GT and not engaged on international voyages, these craft do not come under the Safety of Life At Sea (SOLAS) regulations and hence are not required to carry the Automatic Identification System (AIS) transponders stipulated by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). Reality has shown that small craft can be exploited and used as a conduit to target bigger ships and port facilities. HARTS would further enhance Singapore’s maritime and port security. Following a successful trial to assess the technical feasibility of HARTS, we began implementing it in Singapore in July 2005. Some 3,000 MPA-licensed powered harbour and pleasure craft are required to have the HARTS transponders fitted by end 2006.

System objectives

Information received from HARTS and other surveillance systems enable us to have an even more comprehensive picture of the activities taking place at sea. Having a more inclusive situational picture at sea helps raise the operational capabilities of all agencies in monitoring and enforcing security.

 

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Teo Chee Beng, Assistant Director, Electronics & Communications, Chan Keng Nee, Assistant Director, Port Operations Control, Sunny Lee Chwee Thiam, Deputy Manager, Communications, Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore
Edition: Edition 29

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