16 May 17 The Straits Times by CHARMAINE NG
As the morning wore on, the clear blue skies were covered by dark clouds and the calm waters were occasionally broken by choppy waves.
But just as Singapore's friendship with foreign navies has withstood varying conditions, the flotilla of international naval ships pushed through the elements to pull off the navy's first International Maritime Review without a hitch yesterday as part of the Republic of Singapore Navy's (RSN) golden jubilee celebrations.
The 46 ships that had gathered for the fleet review comprised 28 warships from 20 foreign navies, 16 RSN warships and two Police Coast Guard boats. More than 6,000 guests and participants, including Minister of Defence Ng Eng Hen and Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Mohamad Maliki Osman, were present.
Among them were more than 30 navy chiefs, vice-chiefs of navy and directors-general of coast guards, and over 40 flag rank officers from 44 nations.
As the reviewing officer, President Tony Tan Keng Yam kicked off the event with a land review of the vessels berthed at the wharf. Among them were 12 RSN vessels, including the frigate RSS Formidable, and Littoral Mission Vessel RSS Independence, commissioned earlier this month by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
The foreign vessels included helicopter carrier JS Izumo from Japan, replenishment tanker HMNZS Endeavour from New Zealand and guided missile corvette HTMS Sukhothai from Thailand.
As the President rode past in an open-top vehicle, sailors lined the length of their ships to salute and wave.
At the end of the land review, Dr Tan boarded the Littoral Mission Vessel to continue on a sea review of the remaining ships in the anchorage - the RSS Independence's first operational duty since it was commissioned by PM Lee.
Accompanied by foreign navy chiefs, Dr Tan sailed past 26 vessels at sea, including French frigate FS Prairial, Australian frigate HMAS Ballarat, Chinese frigate Huangshan, Russian guided missile cruiser Varyag and Myanmar frigate UMS King Sin Phyu Shin.
Despite the choppier seas as the RSS Independence ventured further out, sailors waved, tipped their caps and even blared their ships' horns to greet Dr Tan.
Following close behind the RSS Independence was its sister ship, RSS Sovereignty, which carried other VIP guests, including RSN Chief of Staff-Joint Staff Lim Tuang Liang, Government Parliamentary Committee for Defence and Foreign Affairs deputy chairman Amrin Amin, committee members Cedric Foo and Joan Pereira, and the spouses of foreign navy chiefs.
As Dr Tan reviewed the final ship - landing ship tank RSS Endurance - rain clouds loomed overhead.
But the weather held up for the aerial finale minutes later, as a Sikorsky 70B naval helicopter soared high above, followed by a Fokker-50 maritime patrol aircraft. Two F15SG fighter jets brought up the rear, swooping in side by side to end Singapore's inaugural International Maritime Review on a literal high.