Malaysia Deputy PM Datuk Seri Najib Razak has urged the international insurance agencies to drop the war-risk tag on the Straits of Malacca for greater trade interest.
Ships plying the straits have been charged a higher premium as a result of the waterway’s classification. Since last year, the London Lloyd’s Market Association had declared the straits and 20 other maritime areas including Iraq and Colombo as “war-risk zones” highly vulnerable to piracy, terrorism, war and other perils.
“We hope the international insurance companies will reconsider their decision to classify the Straits of Malacca as a war zone. This area is far safe from any threats in the form of international terrorism…We are proud to say that so far this year, there have been no cases of pirate attacks in the Straits…This waterway is plied by more than 2,500 oil tankers which is half of the world’s oil tankers, and 300 cargo vessels daily. Its importance to world trade cannot be ignored,” Najib said at the launch of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) on Tue (21 March).
The Straits of Malacca is the main sea link between East Asia, Middle East and Europe, bordering Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. Terrorism on the straits is an issue of concerns among the international community especially since September 11. Washington and its allies feared militants could inflict global economic devastation with a high sea assault in the Malacca Straits.
Although law enforcement in the region has helped contain the threat of piracy, vulnerabilities still remain. According to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in her earlier visit to Indonesia, “Southeast Asia is more water than land and maritime security is a top priority in the region.”
Some experts in the region have shown optimism on the security situation. “What was a problem of some concern has now been brought under control. Some of the reports on this issue over the years has given the impression that the strait is highly dangerous. The figures show that that’s not the case,” said Tim Huxley from the International Institute of Strategic Studies, London. He cited that the reason for the decline of piracy may be due to the Indian Ocean tsunami in Dec 2004 and subsequent peace agreement between the Indonesian government and rebels in Aceh province. Mr Huxley nevertheless cautioned that bilateral disputes and sovereignty concerns could undercut cooperation.
Malaysia has responded to the call of ensuring security on the straits, “our response was to set up this MMEA. The agency is now responsible for enforcing laws and maintaining peace in the Malaysian Maritime Zone, conducting search and rescue operations, preventing pollution and fighting piracy,” said Najib. He also added that “close cooperation between littoral states and international users in managing waterways like the Straits of Malacca is a matter of necessity, not choice.”
No reason to classify the Straits of Malacca as war zone (Malaysia Star, 22 March)
Reconsider premium charges on ships using Malacca Straits, insurers told (New Straits Times, 23 March)
Malaysia: No evidence of terrorism threat in Malacca Strait (INQ7 Net, 21 March)
Najib: Drop war-risk tag on straits (New Straits Times, 23 March)
Najib: Malacca Straits not ‘war risk zone’ (Sun2Surf, 22 March)
Law enforcement has made Southeast Asia waters safer, but piracy remains a threat (Associated Press, 20 March)