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Malacca Strait needs to boost security

Updated On: Feb 07, 2006

IndonesiaMalaysia and Singapore need to boost security in the strategic waterway which is highly prone to terror threats and piracy.

“Terrorists pose a long-term threat in the Malacca Strait and it is important for regional cooperation to be strengthened further”, said Europe’s anti-terror coordinator, Gijs de Vries who was in Jakarta to discuss closer cooperation with Indonesia in the fight against terrorism.

The narrow, strategic Malacca Strait is a 805-km waterway linking Asia with the Middle East and Europe. Some 50,000 vessels pass annually, carrying half the world’s oil and a third of its commerce. The London insurance market in 2005 classed the Malacca Strait a “war risk” zone, sitting on a list of areas deemed high risk and vulnerable to war, strikes and terrorism.

“The Strait of Malacca is the heaviest trafficked strait in the world, and for that reason any disruption to that commerce, not only would it affect the region, I would suggest it would have global implications,” said commander of US Pacific Fleet, Roughhead on the sidelines of a naval conference in Sydney.

Piracy, a major problem for ships using the Malacca Strait, along with drug and human traffickers on the high seas could be used by terror groups to launch an attack. “Activity on the ocean is increasing and terrorism is a part of that,” he said. According to the International Maritime Bureau, an ocean crime watchdog, Indonesian waters has a great piracy risk accounting for almost 30 percent of reported attacks in 2005.

The bureau acknowledged anti-piracy operations by Indonesia, which saw gangs of pirates captured in 2005. Security efforts by the countries bordering the strait has also been acknowledged but “there is still a lot that can still be done in the joint efforts to monitor security on the strait”, Mr de Vries told reporters.

The four Southeast Asian nations (IndonesiaMalaysiaSingapore and Thailand) guarding the Malacca Strait began joint air patrols over the sea lane in September 2005 to combat piracy and terrorists threats. “But the weak link in maritime security was a lack of information on ships and cargoes, said Roughhead, who called for global information sharing similar to the aviation industry.

“The immediate need that I see is the ability to build that maritime domain awareness. To share that information so we can look at the maritime picture and determine those ships that are of no concern and focus on ships that we are more concerned about” he added.

The United States and other countries have offered to help secure the waterway but Malaysia and Indonesia oppose any foreign intervention stressing their territorial sovereignty. Singapore on the other hand is more open to allowing foreign troops on the strait.

Sources:

* Terrorism a ‘long-term threat’ in Malacca Strait (The Straits Times, 3 Feb)

* EU wants increased patrols in Malacca (The Jakarta Post, 3 Feb)

* EU official: Militants a long-term threat in Malacca Strait (The Star, 2 Feb)

* Malacca strait attack would rock world economies (Reuters, 2 Feb)