Singapore, one of Asia’s most strategic ports, has just celebrated 57 years of independence. Every August 9, the date of Singapore’s independence from Malaysia in 1965, the Singapore government sponsors a parade, military demonstrations and fireworks display. First held in 1965, the event is used by the Prime Minister and President to address the nation on future directions.
This year’s event featured a ‘total defense display’ of the capabilities of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and the Ministry of Home Affairs (Home Team). On the maritime side of the exhibition, Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) medium combat ships and special forces demonstrated their capabilities while pursuing ‘intruders’ on jet skis.
Given the escalating tensions in the region between China and Taiwan, the showcase of Singapore’s strengths helps to project a message of deterrence. Defense and security remain critical components in the so-called “grey zone” between peace and open conflict. Also called “hybrid warfare,” the term involves cyberattacks, nonviolent economic pressure, and information campaigns.
So why is Singapore so important in this discussion? The tiny city-state remains a vital Western ally in a part of the world where sea lanes and territorial waters are increasingly contested. In a few generations, Singapore has grown from an underdeveloped colonial port to a thriving modern metropolis with a GDP of $397 billion – ranked 37th in the world (as of 2021).
As a global maritime transhipment hub at the convergence of major shipping routes, the Singapore Strait accounts for over 70% of the global maritime economy. It also ranks as the busiest bunkering port in the world and the second largest port in terms of total shipping tonnage, with 130,000 ship calls per year. (That’s an average of one ship call every two to three minutes). Singapore’s long historical importance to regional trade and security remains timeless.
The opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.