As the Singapore Civil Defense Force (SCDF) Maritime Division 10th Anniversary event drew to a close, the heavy fire vessel red sailboat put on a fantastic display for guests and attending officers.
red sailboat in action at the Brani Marine Fire Station, during the Marine Division 10th Anniversary event on April 1, 2022. PHOTO: Joash Tan
One of the most powerful firefighting vessels in the world, red sailboat turned on its powerful jets and sprayed water in a 360 degree arc high in the air. It was a majestic sight.
Among the Navy Division officers watching proudly was Lieutenant (LTC) Mohamed Nazim Bin Kudin. A 25-year SCDF veteran, he served as Chief of Operations and Training for the SCDF Marine Division from 2012 to 2020 and now heads the Civil Defense Academy’s Specialist Training Centre.
“We started in 2012 with just two fireboats that were stationed at the West Coast Fire Station,” he recalls. “These ships only had two small water monitors each, but now, red sailboat alone is equipped with 12 powerful monitors capable of filling a swimming pool in two minutes.
LTC Nazim has played a leading role in building the operational and training capabilities of the SCDF Marine Division for the past 10 years. He was also involved in the development of the division’s maritime fire stations and state-of-the-art fleet of six ships.
The pioneer team of Marine Division officers in 2012. PHOTO: SCDF
For LTC Nazim, being the Chief of Operations meant experiencing first-hand everything about the work of the Marine Division. “In everything we do, the Operations team is often the first to face the unknown,” he explained. “Our learning curve was steep.”
During the early days of the Marine Division, LTC Nazim was sent to Germany to learn about marine operations and firefighting vessels. He also completed an internship with the Hong Kong Marine Division to observe his abilities and learn more about underwater rescue and diving. “We studied how other countries conducted their maritime operations,” he recalls. “But ultimately, we needed to adopt best practices from around the world in our operating environment.”
Training of our marine firefighters
Another key challenge for the Marine Division was to train firefighters into sailors. “SCDF has a very long history in firefighting, but maritime operations were relatively new to us,” he said. “Integrating these two capabilities was quite a challenge. That’s why we approached the Republic of Singapore Coastguard Police and Navy to help train our officers in navigation and watercraft.
In 2015, full-time National Servicemen began serving in the Marine Division as Navigation Specialists and Firefighters. This helped improve the Division’s response to maritime emergencies. “Our maritime specialists are now more skilled and knowledgeable,” LTC Nazim said.
Marine firefighters climb aboard a vessel in distress during a nighttime rescue operation in August 2021. PHOTOS: SCDF
Fight fire on water
There are many variables to consider when fighting a fire at sea. To board a burning ship, marine firefighters often have to climb a ladder with all of their heavy equipment. Once on board, they have to work in confined spaces and face more intense heat conditions than on land. “It’s even harder when we have to do all this at night,” LTC Nazim said.
One of the most memorable fires LTC Nazim witnessed was the burning of the Salam Mesra container ship in July 2018. The vessel was at anchor off Marina Barrage and a fire had broken out in the captain’s cabin before spreading. “That night, as I stood on the deck of the Salam Mesra, I felt like I was on a burning pot,” recalls LTC Nazim. “I could see steam coming out of the bridge.”
Fire on the Salam Mesra container ship in July 2018. PHOTO: SCDF
Heat conduction during a fire on board a ship is enormous compared to a building on land. “A fire can start in one cabin,” LTC Nazim explained, “but due to the conduction of the ship’s metal plates, heat can travel through other cabins and start a fire in another part of the ship.”
To fight the blaze, firefighters used water monitors to cool the exterior of the Salam Mesra. They also deployed powerful jets to penetrate her cabins and extinguish the fire thoroughly. After five hours, the fire was finally extinguished and the entire ship’s crew was found.
“My family understands the risks of what we do as rescuers,” LTC Nazim said. “My wife will tell me to take care of myself, but she knows we are trained and fully prepared.”
The Marine Division’s fleet is ready to respond to emergencies in Singapore’s coastal waters. PHOTO: SCDF
A high-performance fleet
Since 2012, the Marine Division has grown from two fireboats to a fleet of six state-of-the-art vessels custom-built for operations in Singapore waters. “We have learned a lot over the years about designing, engineering and building marine firefighting vessels,” said LTC Nazim. “The infrastructure and equipment we have now, compared to 10 years ago, is much more advanced.”
SCDF Unmanned Surface Vessel and Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. PHOTOS: Joash Tan
LTC Nazim is optimistic about more exciting breakthroughs to come for the Marine Division. “In the future, we will test an unmanned surface vessel and an unmanned aerial vehicle for fire and rescue operations,” he said. “Ultimately, we want to leverage technology to work more efficiently while reducing the risks our firefighters face.”
At the Marine Division 10th Anniversary event. PHOTOS: Joash Tan
As one of the pioneers of the Marine Division, LTC Nazim is proud to celebrate its 10th anniversary. “When you get a blank sheet of paper, you can create your own story,” he said. “We were clear on our vision and goals from the start, and built a strong future for the Marine Division.”
Read the speech by Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Minister of State, Department of Home Affairs and Department of National Development, on the 10th anniversary of the SCDF Marine Division.