PCG’s New Port of Call
By NSPI Raphael Lim
Thursday, 8 February 2007, was indeed a momentous day for the Police Coast Guard (PCG) - the official opening of PCG HQ, Brani Base.
Gracing the event as Guest-of-Honour was Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs, Mr Wong Kan Seng. Upon his arrival, DPM Wong was greeted by a contingent of Guard-of-Honour, consisting of PCG officers smartly clad in their ceremonial tunics. Led by Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Kenny Chia, Executive Officer, Coastal Patrol Craft (CPC), the contingent certainly impressed with their precise drills and crisp marching.
Addressing the congregated guests and PCG officers in his speech, DPM Wong highlighted the evolution that PCG has undergone since its humble origins in 1924, when it was first incepted as the Marine Police and its subsequent upgrading in 1993 to the Police Coast Guard. He saluted PCG’s achievements through the years, and reiterated the need for PCG “to constantly re-invent itself to remain relevant and effective.”
DPM Wong, Commissioner of Police (CP) Mr Khoo Boon Hui, former CP Mr Tee Tua Ba, and Commander PCG Assistant Commissioner (AC) Jerry See, were invited to unveil an anchor shaped ceremonial plaque that symbolised PCG’s maritime policing function, as well as to reinforce the identity of Brani Base as PCG’s new home. The distinguished guests, including Israeli consultants Mr Amiram Einat and Mr Zvi Tiroche, who were instrumental in PCG’s setting up of their new home, were then brought on a tour of Brani Base by AC Jerry See and PCG key officers, before retiring to a relaxing reception at the TECHCOM Hangar.
A Base Worthy of Boast
Indeed, Brani Base has plenty going on for it and its officers. Occupying an area of 8.1 hectares of land, Brani Base is approximately seven times larger than the old PCG Headquarters at Kallang Basin. It currently houses three patrol squadrons and a fleet of 30 ships, and is strategically located on the southern part of the island.
There are state-of-the-art training facilities, such as the Board and Search Trainer (BST), a tactical training facility that mimics an eight-level cargo vessel for greater realism in boarding and search-related exercises. And accommodations for officers include an auditorium, sports hall, gymnasium, swimming pool, fitness stations, and a jogging path around the site.
“I’m confident that operations will definitely improve,” enthused ASP Jessie Tan, Commanding Officer CPC, when asked about her sentiments on the new base. “Morale has improved tremendously, thanks to all these new facilities that we’ve never had before. It’s been almost a year, but the excitement has yet to die down!” she added excitedly, referring to PCG’s move from Kallang to Pulau Brani on 20 March 2006.
And it must be immensely satisfying for Mr A Einat and Mr Z Tiroche as well, to view the base in its full glory. After all, the two Israeli consultants were very much involved as part of the project team for the upgrading of PCG, including the layout and facilities for Brani Base.
Recalling some reservations on the move to Pulau Brani when the idea was first brought up, Mr Z Tiroche said: “It was too big, too far… everybody was happy with small Kallang, and transportation was a problem because there was no MRT at that time.” Added Mr A Einat: “What we suggested was that as soon as something is vacated to step firmly in. Whatever major building was free for PCG use, we adopted. And slowly the idea fermented and became what it is today.”
As Mr Z Tiroche succinctly surmised: “We set foot here, expanded and finally became the sole occupants.”
Towards Smoother Waters & Greater Horizons
The base had also made its impression on Mr Tee, who described it to be “a tremendous difference from what we used to have.” A telling statement from the former Officer in Charge (OC), Marine Police (1973 -1975) who led his men in working cohesively with the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN), then known as Maritime Command, in detaining terrorists during the Laju incident of 1974, and who had much experience in dealing with illegal immigrants attempting to enter Singapore by sea, or engaging in illegal activities in our waters.
“In those days, we had a lot of intrusion. There was a zone near the Pasir Panjang side where barter traders would do their trading,” recalled Mr Tee. “None of these chaps had immigration forms.”
And though times have changed, and PCG has come a long way since that era, it would appear that these challenges would continue. As of last year, about 220 illegal immigrants were caught trying to enter Singapore through the sea and waterways – the highest number arrested in the last six years. There were those busted for attempting to smuggle in contraband goods, such as cigarettes. Were more of them trying to get in to take advantage of Singapore’s improving economy, or were more caught because of PCG’s enhanced capabilities?
Either way, PCG will continue to keep our waters safe. With new training facilities, advanced technology, and more enhancements to come such as a simulation centre in the base and high-speed patrol crafts, PCG looks sets to attain even greater heights of operational excellence.