Monday, 21 May 2007

We Chase The Singapore Police Coast Guard

1 degree 46.22 North, 108 degrees 14.91 East.

Crystal Blues departed Singapore on Saturday May 19, after fuelling at RSYC. Our destination is Kuching, Sarawak, about 400 nautical miles distant across the South China Sea. The weather has been very kind, no real wind and lots of motoring, and we should arrive in the Santubong River on Tuesday morning.

As we cleared the Singapore Strait on Saturday night, well clear of Singapore waters, we were intercepted and followed by an obvious military type vessel, 50cal. machine gun on deck, which trained a (very bright) spotlight on us, whilst holding a very close station. We were effectively running blind. After 5 minutes we'd had enough of this and called them on VHF but received no response to repeated hails. After almost 10 minutes and repeated VHF calls from us they fell astern without identifying themselves.

Not impressed at all with their gung-ho boat driving and spot light use, nor with their failure to communicate when requested, we turned and chased them, applying our spotlight to their bridge. The image above, extracted from our positioin logging on our chart plotter, shows us following the turn, following them. They eventually heaved-to and begrudgingly identified themselves on VHF Ch16.

This was the Singapore Police Coast Guard Vessel PH.61 ! When we requested a change of channel to free the emergency frequency, communications were lost.... a man on the deck yelled at us to please use Ch16 again. So we returned to the abused Ch16 and asked what they were about - two different voices responded at different times, with different ineffectual excuses for their behaviour.

Now obviously, we clearly respect Singapore's right to investigate vessels at its borders, and are happy to cooperate, but only so long as it is done in a professional and safe manner.

The way these guys behaved was not courteous or safe - definitely not Singapore's finest hour. It took 10 minutes to get a response from them, and no useful communication ensued. In the end we announced our intention to resume our voyage and left them there, and have lodged an official complaint with the Singapore authorities.

Incredibly, at this stage we think Crystal Blues may be the only sailing vessel ever to chase, apprehend and interrogate a Singapore Police Coast Guard security vessel ! Go figure ....

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