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Enhancing maritime security in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore.

The Straits of Malacca and Singapore are the main seaway connecting the Indian Ocean with the South China Sea and together are the shortest route for tankers trading between the Middle East and Far East Asian countries. Consequently, traffic transiting the region is considerably heavy, reported to be approximately 60,000 vessels a year. In addition, there are a considerable number of local vessels engaged in trade across the straits; numerous fishing vessels can be encountered in most areas.

The narrowest point of this shipping lane is 1.2 miles wide, located near Batu Berhanti, in the Singapore Strait; it creates a natural bottleneck, with the potential for collisions and/or groundings that could result in pollution of the marine environment. (1) While it is by no means clear that the straits could be closed, if for some reason they were closed, nearly half the world's fleet would be required to sail more than 500 miles farther, prolonging voyage times and generating a substantial increase in the requirement for vessel capacity. In fact, some sources have claimed that all excess capacity might be absorbed, which would have the strongest impact on crude-oil shipments and dry-bulk cargoes such as coal. Closure of the straits could be expected to immediately raise freight rates worldwide. (2)

The increasing number of violent and well-coordinated attacks on transiting ships in the straits is a serious problem in and of itself (3) and has suggested that the attacks might be dry runs for a more serious terror attack on shipping. (4) Conversely, some terrorism experts have expressed the view that there is no link between these attacks and terrorist elements, and that there is no evidence that the attackers and terrorists are working together in the straits to launch a terror attack against shipping. Nevertheless, the straits are vulnerable to such acts. (5)

Other threats to shipping in the straits include sea piracy in international waters; armed robbery against ships in national and international waters; smuggling of drugs, migrants, arms and commercial goods; transportation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and related materials by sea; and environmental pollution. Ships and their crews transiting the Straits of Malacca and Singapore face the constant threat of unauthorized boardings; theft of personal property, cargo and the ships themselves; and violence against and kidnapping or murder of seafarers.

The difficulty of protecting shipping from these threats in the straits results from the simple fact that criminals and law enforcement officials are not bound by the same rules. Criminals do not respect maritime borders or national sovereignty, while law enforcement and military officials respect both these limits, particularly in light of strong regional concerns over infringement on littoral states' sovereignty. Hence, there is a real need to level the playing field by facilitating international cooperation and enhancing regional capacity to suppress illicit activity at sea.

This paper reviews steps that have been taken, and that are envisioned, to enhance maritime security in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore. Of particular note are recent calls by senior officials from Malaysia and Indonesia for international cooperation and assistance to that end. (6) Of particular concern is the fact that the details of this cooperation and assistance have not been identified. They should be.


Geographic Location and Characteristics (7)

The Straits of Malacca and Singapore extend for approximately 520 nautical miles (see Figure 1) and together comprise the longest strait used for international navigation. The Straits of Malacca is located between the east coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra and the west coast of peninsular Malaysia. The Singapore Straits is located south of both the island of Singapore and the southeastern tip of peninsular Malaysia, and north of the Indonesian Rian Islands. The straits provide the shortest sea route between the Indian Ocean (via the Andaman Sea) and the Pacific Ocean (via the South China Sea).

At the broad western entrance to the Strait of Malacca, the coasts of Indonesia and Malaysia are separated by about 200 nm. The strait, however, begins to funnel in a southeasterly direction. At 30N and south of One Fathom Bank, the 12-mile territorial seas of Indonesia and Malaysia overlap. (8) The narrowest part of the Strait of Malacca is at the southwestern tip of the Malay Peninsula; it is only 8.4 miles wide, and given the shallow depth, is much narrower for deep-draught vessels.

The narrowest breadth of the Singapore Strait is just 3.2 miles, and throughout its length it is constantly less than 15 miles wide. Indonesia claims a 12-mile territorial sea, and Singapore claims 3 miles. At its eastern outlet into the South China Sea, where it is bordered solely by Malaysia and Indonesia, the sea passage is approximately 11.1 miles wide.

The governing depth of the Straits of Malacca is less than 75 feet, with a tidal range between 4.6 feet at the eastern outlet of the Singapore Strait and 12.5 feet at the western entrance to the Straits of Malacca. (9) The draughts of many large ships using the straits closely approach the controlling depths; therefore, tidal heights are critical for the safety of the ships. In addition, there are reported to be numerous wrecks and shoal patches in the Straits, some of which are in close proximity to the fairways.

The tidal range in the straits varies according to location, ranging from 12 feet in the vicinity of One Fathom Bank in the Straits of Malacca to 5 feet in the area of Horsburgh Light at the eastern end of the Singapore Strait. The tidal flow is influenced by the northwesterly current and can vary considerably, ranging from about 1.5 knots in the north to some 3 knots in the more restricted channels. In the vicinity of Singapore the tidal streams can attain rates of some 6 knots with associated eddies and overfalls. These strong tidal streams cause large uniform sandwaves on the seabed, which form at right angles to the water flow and can vary in height from 13 to 23 feet. Sizeable sand ridges also form parallel to the tidal streams.

The climate of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore is typically equatorial with uniform high temperature, high humidity and copious rainfall. There are no distinct wet or dry months as rain falls during every month of the year. Two main seasons can be distinguished, namely the Northeast Monsoon, which generally lasts from late November to March, and the Southwest Monsoon, from May to September; there are also two shorter intermonsoon periods. Prevailing winds are generally northwest to northeast during the Northeast Monsoon and southeast to southwest during the Southwest Monsoon. Wind speeds on average are below 10 knots throughout the year, although occasional strong gusts are likely when showers or thunderstorms are in the vicinity.

The most significant weather phenomenon during the Southwest Monsoon is the occasional occurrence of late-night and early-morning thunderstorm squalls known as "Sumatras." These storms usually give rise to southwest and northwest winds gusting to 30 knots that are accompanied by heavy rain. A strong Sumatra may produce winds of up to 50 knots or higher. However, although the onset of these storms is sudden, adverse weather conditions associated with them seldom persist more than one or two hours. Moderate to light rain may continue to fall for several hours.

The sea is almost invariably smooth or slight within the straits. Visibility in general used to be good over the whole area except during heavy rain showers, although haze has become a regular occurrence, occasionally becoming very thick. (10)

Shipping and Trade (11)

More than half of the world's annual merchant-fleet tonnage passes through the Straits of Malacca, Sunda and Lombok, with the majority continuing on into the South China Sea. Oil flows through the strait leading into the South China Sea are three times greater than those through the Suez Canal/Sumed Pipeline, and fifteen times greater than oil flows through the Panama Canal. Virtually all shipping that passes through the Malacca and Sunda Straits must pass near the Spratly Islands. The other major shipping lane in the region is a route through the Lombok and Makassar Straits, and continues into the Philippine Sea. Except for north-south traffic from Australia, it is not used as extensively as the Straits of Malacca and Singapore and the South China Sea, since, for most voyages, it represents a longer voyage by several hundred miles.

Cargo shipped by tonnage in the South China Sea is dominated by raw materials en route to East Asian countries. Tonnage via Malacca and the Spratly Islands is dominated by liquid bulk such as crude oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG), followed by trade in dry bulk, mostly coal and iron ore. Nearly two-thirds of the tonnage passing through the straits, and half of the volume passing the Spratly Islands, consists of crude oil from the Persian Gulf. Oil flows through the straits were 10.3 million barrels per day (b/d) in 2002, and rising demand for oil in Asia could almost double these flows over the next two decades.

Southeast Asian nations are heavily dependent upon energy shipments through the South China Sea. More than 80 percent of the crude-oil supplies for Japan and the Republic of Korea flow through the area from the Middle East, Africa and South China Sea nations such as Indonesia and Malaysia. LNG and coal from Indonesia, South Africa and Vietnam are also shipped via this route. As a result, about two-thirds of the Republic of Korea's and almost 60 percent of Japan's energy supplies flow through this sea area.

Because of its strategic significance and high volume of traffic, the Straits of Malacca and Singapore remain one of the most important shipping lanes in the world, and that importance is expected to increase, especially in terms of oil transport. About 11 million b/d currently pass through the straits, but that is set to climb as oil consumption in developing Asian nations rises by an estimated average of 3 percent per annum between now and 2025. In accordance with some forecasts, China alone will account for one-third of that increase, which will see demand growth doubling to nearly 30 million b/d in 2025, from 14.5 million b/d in 2000. Much of the additional supply will be imported from the Middle East and Africa, and most of this volume would need to pass through the straits.

Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships

The large volume of merchant shipping in the South China Sea and the Straits of Malacca and Singapore has been targeted by numerous attacks. Attacked ships included oil-product tankers such as the Thai-flag Tenyu off the coast of Malaysia ill 1999; the Singapore-owned Petro Ranger off the coast of Malaysia, sailing from Singapore to Ho Chi Minh City; the Indonesian-flagged Atlanta in the Riau Straits off Sumatra; and the Honduran-flag MT 1 off the eastern coast of Malaysia. (12)

Before reviewing briefly the number and character of incidents, it is important to clarify the terminology used in the analysis.

There are two organizations that regularly compile and report attacks and attempted attacks against merchant shipping: the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a specialized agency within the United Nations, and the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), a specialized division of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). (13) They use different definitions.

The IMO defines "piracy" as it is defined in the international law of the sea, and "armed robbery against ships" as all other unlawful acts against ships, persons or property on board. (14) The principal difference between these definitions lies in the fact that the international crime of "piracy" can only occur on the high seas and in exclusive economic zones; by definition it cannot occur in territorial seas, archipelagic waters or internal waters.

On the other hand, the IMB uses the term "piracy and robbery against ships" to describe all acts against merchant ships wherever located, whether or not the act fits within the legal definition of piracy. (15)

Of the 330 incidents worldwide reported to the IMO in 2004, 113 occurred in the South China Sea and 60 took place in the straits, amounting to more than half of the global total. This trend continued during the first half of 2005; of the 113 incidents reported worldwide to the IMO, the South China Sea accounted for 48 and the straits 12, again making up over half of the incidents reported. (16)

The number of reports to the International Maritime Bureau are comparable. Of the 325 reports of actual and attempted attacks worldwide in 2004, 46 were in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore; of the 127 such reports for the first half of 2005, 14 were in the straits. (17)

Regional governments question the validity of these statistics. (18) Malaysia, in particular, has recently insisted that its waters are free of these incidents. (19)

In considering these statistics, readers should look behind the numbers, to the descriptions of the acts in the IMO's monthly reports and the IMB's annual and semi-annual reports on piracy and armed robbery against ships, for a more detailed examination of the crimes. Nevertheless, whatever definitions are used, one fact is undisputed: ships and their crews transiting the Straits of Malacca and Singapore face serious and continuing threats of unauthorized boardings; theft of personal property, cargo and the ships themselves; and violence against and kidnapping or murder of seafarers.

Other Security Threats

Given the nature and volume of trade passing through the straits, they are widely considered to be a prime target for terrorists intending to disrupt international commerce; there have been indications that this is a valid analysis. (20)

The recent increase in violent and well-coordinated pirate attacks in the straits has been seen by some officials as a dry run for a terror attack on shipping. However, other terrorism experts reject the existence of links between terrorist activity and the shipping attacks. (21)

On 20 June 2005, the London hull-insurance market, through the Lloyd's Market Association Joint War Committee, added the straits to a list of 21 areas it deemed high-risk for merchant ships and prone to war, strikes, terrorism and other such perils. (22) This action did not automatically affect rates or cause cancellation for insurance policies' standard war-risk clauses, (23) but it produced a chorus of calls for reconsideration, (24) which so far has not changed the committee's recommendation.

Other illegal activities, often of greater concern to the littoral states, include cross-straits drug trafficking; smuggling of migrants and of goods such as cigarettes,;transportation of WMD and related materials by sea; and oil pollution. Seafarers remain in constant danger when passing through the straits. (25)


In light of their colonial history, the littoral states have traditionally been concerned with preserving their sovereignty and territorial integrity from outside interference. They have correctly pointed out that it is their responsibility to ensure the safety and security of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore, (26) but they do not have capability to protect even their own portions of the Straits of Malacca. In addition, they have traditionally been reluctant to cooperate sufficiently among themselves to make their maritime boundaries effectively permeable for action by other states' law enforcement forces. Perhaps due to a lack of mutual trust, law enforcement vessels in pursuit of criminals have not been permitted to enter foreign territorial seas. This creates havens for the criminals and abets criminal activity in the straits.

As a practical matter, cooperation is essential if maritime security for the straits and its seafarers is to be achieved. Detection, monitoring and interdiction efforts have to focus on hundreds of square miles of ocean, and such cases occur at all hours of the day. The littoral states have to permit pursuit and entry of their neighbors' maritime law enforcement vessels and aircraft. Law enforcement personnel need mechanisms for rapidly obtaining authorization from a coastal state for pursuit and entry into its territorial sea and archipelagic waters, and for boarding and detention of suspect vessels from the flag or coastal state, depending on location. Formal cooperation is required to establish these mechanisms on an expedited basis.

Benefits of Formal Cooperation

Formalized cooperation ensures that decisions on the exercise of enforcement jurisdiction always remain with the coastal or flag state. Furthermore, it deprives criminals of "safe havens"; permits the sharing of scarce law enforcement resources; accelerates the request-response process; and reduces the burden on the parties because systems are already in place to act. When formalized, cooperation is limited to suspect vessels and aircraft; the effect on legitimate commerce is minimal. Finally, cooperation between flag and coastal states facilitates better supervision of flag-state merchant fleets.

Bases for Cooperation

Two basic requirements must be met to achieve timely and useful cooperation: adequate national capabilities and tailored international arrangements and agreements, whether bilateral or multilateral.

National capabilities that the littoral states must each possess include:

* Ability to constantly monitor shipping in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore

* Ability to receive, analyze, disseminate and act on information in real time at all hours

* Interagency cooperation among all domestic agencies charged with maritime law enforcement

* Delegation of authority to a national operations center

* Liaison officers from the littoral states present in each country's operations center

* Communications ability and protocol between operation centers

* Appropriate national laws, regulations and procedures

* Full implementation of the IMO's International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code to reduce risks to passengers, crews and port personnel on board ships and in port areas and to the vessels and their cargoes (27)

There are a number of international agreements and regional arrangements that can form part of the legal framework for international cooperation in the straits while respecting the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the littoral States. These include:

* United Nations Law of the Sea Convention, 1982

* Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation, 1988

* Regional Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia, 2004

UN Law of the Sea Convention, 1982 (28)

The UN Law of the Sea Convention is widely ratified; there are currently 149 parties. The littoral states of Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore are party. Indeed among the ASEAN countries, only Cambodia and Thailand are not party.

The following rules and provisions concerning maritime law enforcement contained in the convention are widely considered to be reflective of customary international law accepted by the United States:

* All states have the duty to cooperate in the suppression of piracy (Article 100) and smuggling of drugs (Article 108)

* Piracy is defined in Article 101--but it cannot occur in territorial seas

* In cases of suspected piracy, shipboarding in international waters--both high seas and exclusive economic zones (EEZ)--is authorized without specific flag state consent (Article 110)

* Right of hot pursuit is defined (Article III):

** Ceases as soon as pursued ship enters the territorial sea of its own state or of a third state (Article 111.3)

** Does not address most other crimes not amounting to piracy

** Does not require states to criminalize piracy under national law

* Other hoardings in international waters require flag state consent (Article 110.1)

SUA Convention Amendments (29)

The Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation (SUA Convention), 1988, fills some jurisdictional gaps by addressing acts that endanger the safety of international navigation while the ship is underway on an international voyage. It requires parties to criminalize such acts under national law and to cooperate in the investigation and prosecution of perpetrators.

There were 126 parties to the SUA Convention as of August 2005. (30) Unfortunately, only five ASEAN members are party to SUA: Brunei, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam. Other parties include Australia, China, Japan and the United States. (31) Most notably, Malaysia and Indonesia are not party to the SUA Convention. However, the Federation of ASEAN Shipowners' Associations has recently recommended that all ASEAN countries ratify the SUA Convention and put in place the necessary national legislation to implement it. (32)

Nevertheless, the SUA Convention does not address modern threats of terrorism to the safety of shipping and persons on board, and does not identify potentially appropriate measures, such as boarding and searching a ship, to interrupt the commission of an SUA Convention offense.

Terrorist threats not addressed by the original SUA Convention include:

* Mining of critical ports by swimmers or small boats

* Importation of WMD by container or other clandestine means

* Increase in drug or migrant trafficking to fund terrorist activities

* Sabotage of critical infrastructure

* Sabotage or hijacking of a high-interest vessel

* Use of ships and their cargoes as weapons

Between 2002 and 2005, the legal committee of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) formulated amendments to meet these new threats. A diplomatic conference, held in London from 10-14 October 2005, considered and adopted the amendments. (33)

The amendments to the SUA Convention include offenses against the security of maritime navigation. Three new articles address the new offenses to be added to the SUA Convention. The amendments also add a shipboarding regime based on flag-state consent. This regime will provide procedures for expeditiously seeking and obtaining flag-state verification of the nationality of the suspect ship and authorization to board the vessel and take the necessary action to prevent the commission of an SUA offense. Significantly, the amendments would provide the most extensive safeguards for seafarers contained in any multilateral agreement applicable when shipboardings occur. (34)

Asian Regional Anti-Piracy Agreement (ReCAAP)

After four years of negotiation, the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) was adopted in November 2004 by 16 states: Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam. However, the ReCAAP agreement is not yet in force. (35)

The agreement, a Japanese initiative, addresses both piracy and armed robbery against ships not amounting to piracy, but it does not cover other criminal activity at sea. The agreement sets up mechanisms for achieving international cooperation. For example, parties may request assistance from each other in detecting and taking action against persons and ships (Articles 10, 11). The agreement specifically authorizes cooperative arrangements (Article 15) and also seeks to enhance capacity building (Article 14). However, the agreement does not deal with methods of assistance or the use of force.

Two other efforts may provide additional inspiration for the formulation of a comprehensive cooperative mechanism among straits states: the IMO draft antipiracy cooperation agreement, and the Caribbean regional maritime counternarcotics agreement.

IMO Draft Anti-Piracy Cooperation Agreement

In 1999 the IMO published a draft anti-piracy cooperation agreement developed internally for consideration by governments. (36) This comprehensive draft agreement provides full respect for national sovereignty of all countries while providing bases for regional cooperation. It includes provisions for maritime law enforcement in and over international and national waters.

Caribbean Regional Agreement

The "Agreement concerning co-operation in suppressing illicit maritime and air trafficking in narcotic drugs and psychotmpic substances in the Caribbean Area," opened for signature on 10 April 2003 in San lose, Costa Rica. It recognizes that because no country in the region, large or small, has the capacity to fight the threat of drug smuggling by itself, international cooperation is essential. It provides full respect for the national sovereignty of all countries bordering the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico while providing bases for regional and subregional cooperation among those countries and taking into account the differing capabilities of and threats to each. It also provides for the establishment of national, sub-regional and regional capabilities for "real time--an the time" exchange of operational information, requests, authorizations and coordination of actions to suppress illicit traffic, while respecting exclusive flag-state and coastal-state jurisdiction. The regional trust building that is likely to be achieved through joint action in the Caribbean might provide a lesson for straits states' negotiations. (37)

Unfortunately these precedents are not sufficient in and of themselves to ensure the safety and security of navigation in the straits.


International Maritime Organization

The IMO has been very active in other multilateral efforts to combat piracy and armed robbery at sea, as well as in enhancing the safety and security of navigation and environmental protection in the straits. It has promulgated several documents, including recommendations for governments; (38) ship owners, ship operators, ship masters and crews; (39) a draft code of practice for investigation of these crimes; (40) published reports of these criminal acts; and a comprehensive bibliography. (41)

The IMO has sponsored or participated in a number of international and regional conferences and events where safety of navigation and the provision and maintenance of adequate aids to navigation in the straits have been discussed. The most recent of these events was the Jakarta Meeting on the Straits of Malacca and Singapore: Enhancing Safety, Security and Environmental Protection (Jakarta, 7-8 September 2005). (42)

In addition, the IMO has made numerous and considerable efforts to enhance the safety of navigation and environmental protection in the straits and has provided a forum for littoral and user states to discuss various pertinent issues. These have resulted in the adoption of amendments to the existing traffic-separation schemes in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore (COLREG.2/Circ.44); the amendment of rules for vessels navigating through the Straits of Malacca and Singapore; (43) and the establishment of the mandatory ship-reporting system in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore. (44) The IMO sponsors the Marine Electronic Highway (MEH) Project for the straits which aims to provide Electronic Navigational Charts for the straits area; to supply of navigational information on a real-time basis, including tidal and current data; to fit adequate Automatic Identification System (AIS) shore stations in the straits area; and within the project, to operate a model MEH System involving tankers equipped with Electronic Chart Display and Information Systems (ECDIS). (45)

Regional Efforts

During recent years, various efforts have been undertaken in the region to com bat piracy and armed robbery against ships, as well as to enhance maritime security in the South East Asia region and specifically in the straits. (46)


In addition to its leadership in developing ReCAAP as mentioned above, Japan Coast Guard (JCG) patrol vessels and aircraft have visited Southeast Asian countries for the purpose of strengthening cooperation and collaboration through the exchange of information and the conduct of joint exercises among the coast guard agencies of the countries concerned; so far JCG's patrol vessels have visited seven countries and its aircraft have visited eight countries. For the purpose of enhancing law enforcement cooperation against transnational crimes such as piracy, ICG has been implementing several programs to assist human-resource development in both the long and short term, such as the provision of maritime law enforcement training courses and the acceptance of overseas students at the Japan Coast Guard Academy. The JCG and the Nippon Foundation have provided financial support for regular "Experts Meetings" held in Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand in order to promote mutual cooperation and understanding. (47)


In 2003, the tenth ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) Ministerial Meeting issued a comprehensive statement on cooperation against piracy and other threats to security in the Asia-Pacific region. (48)

At the twelfth meeting of the ARF Ministers in July 2005, the ministers "welcomed the ARF's sustained efforts in promoting maritime safety and security and noted the four key areas for future cooperation: multilateral cooperation, operational solutions to maritime safety and security, shipping and port security, and application of technology for maritime safety and security." (49) It remains to be seen how and to what extent cooperation in each of these four areas will be achieved.

Littoral States

Over the past 15 months, the littoral states have introduced new initiatives to enhance the security of the straits. On 24 July 2004, the chiefs of the armed forces of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore launched trilateral coordinated patrols of the straits, code-named MALSINDO Malacca Straits Coordinated Patrols. (50) Unfortunately the patrols appear to have had little success. (51)

More significantly, during a 1-2 August 2005 meeting in Kuala Lumpur, the chiefs of the defense forces of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand agreed on steps to enhance the security of the straits. They agreed to establish two working groups, one to draft standard operating procedures for coordinated security patrols in the straits that would now include Thailand, (52) and another to explore in detail a Malaysian proposal to enhance aerial surveillance of the straits. (53) The "eyes in the sky" patrols commenced on 13 September 2005; the patrols, using two aircraft from each of the four countries, are permitted to fly above the waters of the four nations no closer than 3 nautical miles from land. Each nation is to conduct up to two air patrols per week, with each flight carrying a combined mission patrol team composed of personnel from the four participating nations. (54)

The foreign ministers of Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore also met from 1-2 August 2005 in Batam, Indonesia, to discuss matters pertaining to the safety of navigation, environmental protection and maritime security in the straits. At the end of the meeting they issued the "Batam Joint Statement of the 4th Tripartite Ministerial Meeting of the Littoral States on the Straits of Malacca and Singapore." This very important statement laid out their views on enhancing the security of the straits, as follows:

4. The Ministers reaffirmed the sovereignty and sovereign rights of the Littoral States over the Straits of Malacca and Singapore, defined under UNCLOS 1982 as straits used for international navigation. As such, the primary responsibility over the safety of navigation, environmental protection and maritime security in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore lies with the littoral States.

5. The Ministers emphasized that whatever measures undertaken in the Straits should be in accordance with international law including UNCLOS 1982. In this regard they acknowledged the interest of user States and relevant international agencies and the role they could play in respect of the Straits.

6. The Ministers recognized the importance of the Tripartite Ministerial Meeting on the Straits of Malacca and Singapore in providing the overall framework for cooperation. They agreed that the Ministers and the Senior Officials should meet on a more regular basis to address relevant issues in a timely manner. Such meetings may include, if necessary, representatives of other relevant agencies of the respective littoral States.

7. The Ministers recognized the importance of engaging the states bordering the funnels leading to the Straits of Malacca and Singapore, and the major users of the Straits. In this regard, the Ministers supported continuing discussion on the overall subject of maritime security in the South East Asian region within the framework of ASEAN and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF).

8. The Ministers acknowledged the good work carried out by the Tripartite Technical Experts Group (TTEG) on Safety of Navigation in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore. They also recognized the efforts of the Revolving Fund Committee (RFC) in dealing with issues of environmental protection in the Straits. In this regard, the Ministers welcomed the convening of the 30th TTEG on Safety of Navigation Meeting scheduled to be held in Penang, Malaysia, in September 2005.

9. The Ministers encouraged cooperation between littoral States and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to put in place the Pilot Project of Marine Electronic Highway (MEH) as a step forward for the enhancement of the safety of navigation and environmental protection in the Straits. The Ministers also took note of the forthcoming establishment of the ReCAAP Information Sharing Center in Singapore. In this regard the Ministers of Indonesia and Malaysia indicated their respective countries' preparedness to cooperate with the Center.

10. The Ministers supported the convening of the Chiefs of Defence Forces of Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand Informal Meeting (CDF-MIST Informal Meeting) in Kuala Lumpur on 1-2 August 2005, and encouraged them to further strengthen their cooperation.

11. The Ministers acknowledged that the littoral States should address the issue of maritime security comprehensively which includes trans-boundary crimes such as piracy, armed robbery and terrorism. The Ministers also recognized the need to address the issue of trafficking in persons, and smuggling of people, weapons and other trans-boundary crimes through appropriate mechanisms.

12. The Ministers agreed to establish a TTEG on Maritime Security to complement the works of the existing TTEG on Safety of Navigation and the Revolving Fund Committee.

13. Bearing in mind the responsibility and burden of littoral States and the interests of user States in maintaining the safety of navigation, environmental protection and maritime security, the Ministers welcomed the assistance of the user States, relevant international agencies, and the shipping community in the areas of capacity building, training and technology transfer, and other forms of assistance in accordance with UNCLOS 1982. In this regard they also welcomed closer collaboration between littoral States and the international community.

14. The Ministers expressed regret at Lloyds' categorization of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore as a high risk zone for piracy and terrorism without consulting and taking into account the existing efforts of the littoral States to deal with the problems of safety of navigation and maritime security. The Ministers urged the Committee to review its risk assessment accordingly.

15. The Ministers welcomed the forthcoming "Meeting on the Straits of Malacca and Singapore: Enhancing Safety, Security and Environmental Protection" in collaboration with the International Maritime Organization to be held on 7-8 September 2005 in Jakarta, Indonesia. (55)

In addition, in his state address (the equivalent of a U.S. President's annual State of the Union address) of 16 August 2005, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhovono appears to have confirmed Indonesia's intentions to welcome international cooperation in improving security in the Straits of Malacca. In his address, he said:
 The government will also increase the securizing [sic] of the
 Malacca Strait from various threats, in line with our responsibility
 as a coastal state. For that purpose, we have increased trilateral
 cooperation with Malaysia and Singapore, in addition to with other
 countries utilizing the sea-lanes in that Strait. The Government
 also continues to increase its capability to prevent and combat acts
 of terrorism. Regional and international cooperation to overcome
 this threat have proceeded well and will be increased further. (56)

Jakarta Meeting on the Straits of Malacca and Singapore

The Jakarta Meeting on the Straits of Malacca and Singapore, 7-8 September 2005, brought together representatives of 31 user states as well as the three straits states. Formal presentations were made, inter alia, by the IMO, each of the three littoral states, China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the United States, and several nongovernmental organizations. While the user states who were represented all indicated their willingness to provide assistance, the littoral states failed to specify what assistance they needed. Instead they emphasized what they had already done and what they were contemplating in the near term to enhance the safety, security and environmental protection of the straits. (57)

Thus it is expected that the IMO will convene meetings in 2006, most likely in Singapore and Malaysia, where the littoral states will be expected to identify and prioritize their needs and interested user states will be expected to identify possible assistance to respond to those needs. (58)


* Cooperation is essential

* Capacity building is available

* Methods for cooperation in combating the international threats can have a common physical and legal foundation.

None of the states bordering the Straits of Malacca and Singapore alone can satisfactorily defend their territorial integrity against criminals who have no respect for national borders. Cooperation among these littoral states can be expected to improve as they come to realize that each state's sovereignty is enhanced by working together and developing trust. That trust also evolves when each littoral state has a common operating picture--an electronic real-time display of ship movements in the straits with current identifying information. This will give the states the ability to communicate at any time of the day with counterpart operations centers in other nations. Each center's decisionmakers would be authorized to make the maritime border as permeable to law enforcement forces as it is to the criminal. The could, for example, authorize pursuit and entry into territorial waters to investigate or prevent the escape of the criminal suspect. After all, such criminals pose a threat to all littoral states, irrespective of the location of criminal activity at the time it is detected.

What is envisioned here are fusion centers in each littoral country that are physically and technologically equipped and authorized to respond to threats or suspicious activity at any location in the straits. These fusion centers will be free to task the nearest available asset, regardless of country of origin, to proceed to the scene of an incident.

The U.S. offers of assistance are a sign that the user states and littoral states now recognize that they have a common interest in preserving the security of the straits without compromising their rights and obligations under the international law of the sea. (59) The next step should be for the littoral states to identify and prioritize their individual needs.


(1) All miles in this paper, unless specified otherwise, are nautical miles. One nautical mile equals one minute of latitude at the equator: 1,852 meters or 6,076.03 feet. The statute mile commonly used on land is 5,280 feet.

(2) U.S. Energy, Information Agency, World Oil Transit Chokepoints: Strait of Malacca, March 2004, at (16 August 2005); John H. Noer, "Southeast Asian Chokepoints: Keeping Sea Lines of Communication Open," Institute for National Strategic Studies Strategic Forum 98 (December 1996), at 98.html (16 August 2005).

(3) Michael Richardson, "Aiming a shot across the bow," Straits Times, 25 May 2005, at (16 August 2005).

(4) Tammy Sittnick, "State Responsibility and Maritime Terrorism in the Strait of Malacca: Persuading Indonesia and Malaysia to take additional steps to secure the strait," Pacific Rim Law & Policy Journal 14, no. 3 (June 2005): 743, 744-745, 748-750.

(5) Catherine Zara Raymond, "The Malacca Straits and the Threat of Maritime Terrorism," Power and Interest News Report, 24 August 2005, at (25 August 2005). See also U.S. Energy Information Agency, World Oil Transit Chokepoints: Strait of Malacca, March 2004, at (16 August 2005); John H. Noer, "Southeast Asian Chokepoints: Keeping Sea Lines of Communication Open," Institute for National Strategic Studies Strategic Forum No. 98 (December 1996), at (16 August 2005).

(6) "Littoral States Agree To Implement 'Eve. in the Sky' Concept," Malaysian National News Agency, 2 August 2005, at 148208 (24 August 2005); Ministry of Foreign Affairs Singapore Press Release, "The Batam Joint Statement of the 4th Tripartite Ministerial Meeting of the Littoral States on the Straits of Malacca and Singapore" (2 August 2005), at'?post_id=1406 (3 August 2005).

(7) This profile is principally adapted from a study prepared by the Secretariat of the International Maritime Organization in IMO document C 93/15 Annex, 7 October 2004. Greater detail may be found in U.S. National Geospatial-lntelligence Agency Publication I74, "Sailing Directions (Enroute): Strait of Malacca and Sumatra," 9th ed. 2004, at (21 September 2005).

(8) U.S. Department of State, "Indonesia-Malaysia Territorial Sea Boundary," Limits in the Seas No. 50 (1973), at (28 August 2005); Choun-ho Park, "Indonesia-Malaysia (Territorial Sea)," Report No. 5-9(2), Jonathan I. Charney and Lewis Alexander, eds., International Maritime Boundaries I (Boston: Martinus Nijhoff, 1993): 1029-1037: R. Haller-Trost, The Contested Maritime and Territorial Boundaries of Malaysia: An International Law Perspective (London: Kluwer Law International, 1998), 23-29, 489.

(9) Michael Leifer, Malacca, Singapore and Indonesian Straits (Alphen aan den Rign, The Netherlands: Sijthoff & Noorhoof, 1978), 52-56. Navigational difficulties are described at 56-62. See also IMO, Report of the IMO Working Group on the Malacca Strait Area, IMO document MSC 62/Inf.3 (London, 1993), 6-8.

(10) "Malaysia Haze Triggers Emergency," BBC, 11 August 2005, at

(11) The information in this and the next section is taken from U.S. Energy Information Agency, "Country Analysis Brief: South China Sea Region," September 2003, at (26 August 2005).

(12) U.S. Energy Information Agency, "Country Analysis Brief: South China Sea Region." The Petro Ranger case is detailed in Jack Hitt, "Bandits in the Global Shipping Lanes," New York Times Magazine (20 August 2000): 37-41, 52, 68-69. See also William Langewiesche, The Outlaw Sea: A World of Freedom, Chaos, and Crime (New York: North Point Press, 2004), 46-83.

(13) The IMO's borne page is Basic information on the IMB may be found at

(14) Piracy is defined in Article 101 of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS):

"Piracy consists of any of the following acts:

(a) any illegal acts of violence or detention, or any act of depredation, committed for private ends by the crew or the passengers of a private ship or a private aircraft, and directed:

(i) on the high seas, against another ship or aircraft, or against persons or property on board such ship or aircraft;

(ii) against a ship, aircraft, persons or property in a place outside the jurisdiction of any State;

(b) any act of voluntary participation in the operation of a ship or of an aircraft with knowledge of facts making it a pirate ship or aircraft;

(c) any act inciting or of intentionally facilitating an act described in sub-paragraph (a) or (b)."

The IMO defines armed robbery against ships as follows:

"Armed robbery against ships means any unlawful act of violence or detention or any act of depredation, or threat thereof, other than an act of "piracy, l" directed against a ship or against persons or property' on board such ship, within a State's jurisdiction over such offences."

IMO Code of Practice for the Investigation of the Crimes of Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships, resolution A.922(22), Annex, paragraph 2.2 (29 November 2001), quoted in the IMO's reports on acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships,, click on "Safety", "IMO Circulars," "Reports on Piracy;" (23 August 2005).

(15) For statistical purposes, the IMB defines "piracy and armed robbery against ships" as: "An act of boarding or attempting to board any ship with the apparent intent to commit theft or any other crime and with the apparent intent or capability to use force in the furtherance of that act". This definition covers actual or attempted attacks whether the ship is berthed, at anchor or at sea. Petty thefts are excluded unless the thieves are armed. ICC International Maritime Bureau, Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships, Report for the Period 1 January-30 June 2005 (London, International Maritime Bureau: 19 July 2005), 3.

(16) IMO documents MSC.4/Circ 69, 27 May 2005; MSC.4/Circ. 72, 16 August 2005, at, "IMO Circulars," "Reports on Piracy" (28 August 2005).

(17) ICC International Maritime Bureau, Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships, annual report for 1 January-31 December 2004 (London: International Maritime Bureau, 7 February 2005), 4 and semiannual report for 1 January-30 June 2005 (London: International Maritime Bureau, 19 July 2005), 5.

(18) Stefan Eklof, "Piracy in Southeast Asia: Real Menace or Red Herring?" Japan Focus (2 August 2005), at (17 August 2005); Reuters, "Indonesia claims IMB misrepresents scale of problems," Lloyd's List Daily News Bulletin, 2 August 2005.

(19) "Malaysia says Malacca Straits safe," The Australian, 13 September 2005, at 0,5744,16586653%255E31477,00.html (19 September 2005); "Statistics show Strait of Melaka one of safest in the world," Malaysian National News Agency, 19 September 2005, at (20 September 2005).

(20) Erich Marquardt, "Examining the Threats to Indonesia's National Interests," Power and Interest Newts Report, 2 March 2005, at (25 August 2005); Joint Press Statement, 14th Asian Shipowners Forum, 9-11 May 2005, at 20ASF%20Press%20Statement.pdf (25 August 2005); Michael Richardson, "A Time Bomb for Global Trade: Maritime-related Terrorism in an Age of Weapons of Mass Destruction," Institute of South East Asian Studies (25 February 2004), at (26 February 2004).

(21) "Misperception of Piracy and Terror Link in Malacca Straits," Malaysian National New Agency, 22 August 2005, at id= 151589 (23 August 2005); Bronson Percival, "Indonesia and the United States: Shared Interests in Maritime Security," United States-Indonesia Society (June 2005), at (25 August 2005): 1-2, 9-14.

(22) "Malacca Strait threat growing, insurer report says," Reuters, 16 August 2005, at bttp:// (17 August 2005).

(23) U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence, "Worldwide Threat to Shipping Report Mariner Warning Information," at 20 July 2005, onit_i_display.html?path=%2FMISC%2Fww tts%2Fwwtts_2005072 (1000000.txt&time=20-Jul-2005 (16 August 2005): paragraph I.D. 1.

(24) See, e.g., "JWC under fire for lack of consultation over list," Star Online (Malaysia), 8 August 2005, at file=/2005/8/8/maritime/11689065&sec=maritime (16 August 2005); Federation of Asean Shipowners' Associat ions Press Release, "Joint War Committee (JWC) War Risk Listing" (12 August 2005), at Press/FASA%20PR%2020050812.pdf (13 August 2005).

(25) Brian Orrell, "Malacca debate must highlight real risks," letter to the editor of Lloyd's List, 23 August 2005, at (29 August 2005). Mr. Orrell is the general secretary of the National Union of Marine, Aviation and Shipping Transport Officers (NUMAST). NUMAST is a trade union, representing shipmasters, officers, cadets and other staff serving in the UK and international fleets and ashore in maritime related industries. It is affiliated with the TUC (Trades Union Congress) and the ITF (International Transport Workers' Federation). See (29 August 2005).

(26) The first article (34) in Part III, Straits Used for International Navigation, of the Law of the Sea Convention provides the basis for that responsibility:

"1. The regime of passage through straits used for international navigation established in this Part shall not in other respects affect the legal status of the waters forming such straits or the exercise by States bordering the straits of their sovereignty or jurisdiction over such waters and their air space, bed and subsoil.

"2. The sovereignty or jurisdiction of the States bordering the straits is exercised subject to this Part and other rules of international law."

(27) On the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code, see http://www.imo.urg/home.asp, "Maritime Security" (29 August 2005).

(28) On the Law of the Sea Convention, see (21) September 2005).

(29) On the SUA Convention and its proposed amendments, see, "Maritime Security;" "SUA Conference" (29 August 2005).

(30) See (20 September 2005).

(31) See data_id%3D12899/status.xls (20 September 2005).

(32) "Malaysia urged to ratify SUA Convention," Business Times, 20 June 2005, at (23 August 2005).

(33) See topic_id=1018&doc_id=5334.

(34) For further information, see the IMO's homepage, at, click on "Legal", then "SUA Treaties."

(35) The text of the agreement may be found in International Legal Materials 44, no. 4 (July 2005): 829-835. Three states, Japan, Laos and Singapore, have ratified the agreement. The agreement will enter into force when ten states have ratified. Ministry of Foreign Affairs Singapore Press Statement, "Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in Asia" (28 April 2005), at (17 August 2005); Ministry of Foreign Affairs Japan Press Release, "Signing and Deposit of Instrument of Notification of the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia" (28 April 2005), at http://www.mofa.go.ip/announce/announce/2005/4/0428.html (17 August 2005). While Malaysia and Indonesia have not yet signed the agreement, in paragraph nine of the recent Batam Statement, text accompanying note 56 below, the foreign ministers of Indonesia and Malaysia "indicated their respective countries' preparedness to cooperate with the Center." The Yomiuri Shimbun reported on 5 September 2005 that the Japanese government intends to provide $360,000 toward the operating costs of the center once it is set up, at feed=TopNews&article=UPI-1-2005090504412400-bc-japan-pirates.xml (20 September 2005).

(36) IMO, Draft Agreement on Co-operation in Preventing and Suppressing Acts of Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships, MSC/Circ.622/Rev.1 Annex 5, 16 June 1999, at (17 August 2005).

(37) The text of this agreement is not vet available on the Internet.

(38) IMO, Recommendations to Governments for combating piracy and armed robbery against ships, MSC/Circ.622/Rev.1, 16 June 1999, at (16 August 2005).

(39) IMO, Guidance to shipowners and ship operators, shipmasters and crews on preventing and suppressing acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships, MSC/Circ.623/Rev.3, 29 May 2002, at (16 August 2005).

(40) IMO, Draft code of practice for the investigation of the crimes of piracy and armed robbery against ships, MSC/Circ.984, 20 December 2000, at (16 August 2005).

(41) IMO, Information Resources on Privacy and Armed Robbery at Sea, Information Sheet No. 29, revised 16 August 2005, at (16 August 2005).

(42) "High level IMO conference on Malacca Strait," Business Times, 9 May 2005, at may.html (23 August 2005). The meeting, originally announced for July 2005, was subsequently delayed until September 2005.

(43) IMO, Routeing Measures other than Traffic Separation Schemes, SN/Circ. 198, 26 May 1998, at (18 August 2005).

(44) IMO, Mandatory Ship Reporting Systems SN/Circ.201, 26 May 1988, at blastDataOnly.asp/data id%3D8753/201.PDF (18 August 2005).

(45) Koji Sekimizu, "The Marine Electronic Highway in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore-An innovative Project for the Management of Highly Congested and Confined Waters," Tropical Coasts (July 2001): 24-31, at data-id%3D3670/marineelectronichighwayarticle.pdf (24 August 2005); "Electronic highway project takes major step forward," IMO News No. 2 (2002): 35, at data_id%3D5716/issue2.pdf (24 August 2005). Funding shortfalls have delayed implementation of the project that was launched on 8 September 2005 during the Jakarta Meeting. See further note 58 below.

(46) For a recent comprehensive review and analysis of regional maritime security cooperation in the region see John E Bradford, "The Growing Prospects for Maritime Security Cooperation in Southeast Asia," Naval War College Review 58, No. 3 (Summer 2005), at 2005/summer/art3-su05.htm (15 August 2005).

(47) IMO document MSC 78/26 (28 May 2004), paragraphs 20.29-20.30. See also Bronson Percival, Indonesia and the United States: Shared Interests in Maritime Security (Washington, DC: United States-Indonesia Society), 18-20, at (26 August 2005).

(48) "ARF Statement on Cooperation Against Piracy and Other Threats to Security," 17 June 2003, at (1 August 2005).

(49) "Chairman's Statement of the Twelfth Meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), Vientiane, 29 July 2005," at http://www./ (1 August 2005), paragraph 23 (emphasis added).

(50) MINDEF Singapore News Release, "Launch of Trilateral Coordinated Patrols--MALSINDO Malacca Straits Coordinated Patrols" (20 July 2004), at nr/2004/jul/20jul04_nr.html (22 August 2005).

(51) Ioannis Gatsiounis, "Pirates mock Malacca Strait security;" Asia Times Online, 9 April 2005, at (25 August 2005); Bradford, 69.

(52) "Font countries preparing SOP of Malacca Strait," Antara News, 8 August 2005, at (9 August 2005).

(53) Tiarma Siboro, "Thailand may join Malacca Strait patrols," Jakarta Post, 9 August 2005, at (10 August 2005); "Littoral States Agree Tu Implement 'Eve in the Sky' Concept," Malaysian National News Agency, 2 August 2005, at (24 August 2005). This Bernama report also said that the details of these two concepts were to be further fine-tuned during the IMO Jakarta 7-8 September 2005 meeting before implementation, and that the Malaysian deputy prime minister/defense minister said "other countries wishing to extend their assistance by offering some of their assets could do so, but it was up to the littoral states to operate the assets and monitor the security of the straits." Other reports quoted the defense minister as saying, "The reality is that we need more resources to ensure the level of security in the Straits of Malacca. The only way we can do it is to engage the international community, but not at the expense of principles of national sovereignty and territorial integrity." He was reported to have said that "any aircraft provided by other countries should remain in the control and command of the littoral states." ("'Eve in the Sky' Over the Malacca Strait," Business Times, 2 August 2005, at [24 August 2005].) See also Singapore Minister for Defense Teo Chee Hean, "Working Together to Enhance Security," Speech before the 7th Asia-Pacific Program for Senior Military Officers (4 August 2005),at data/pr/200508(14991.htm (10 August 2005): paragraph 16.

(54) Mohd Nasir Yusoff, "Eye-in-The-Sky Over Malacca Straits from Sept 13," Malaysian National News Agency, 8 September 2005, at (9 September 2005); "Analysis: 'Eve in the Sky' patrols to begin over Malacca Strait," at (19 September 2005); Yeoh En-Lai, "Joint patrol launched in Malacca Strait," China Post, GRP=C&id=68576 (19 September 2005).

(55) Ministry of Foreign Affairs Singapore Press Release, "The Batam Joint Statement of the 4th Tripartite Ministerial Meeting of the Littoral States on the Straits of Malacca and Singapore" (2 August 2005), at (3 August 2005).

(56) Dr. H. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, "State Address of the President of the Republic of Indonesia and the Government Statement" (Jakarta: 16 August 2005), at (25 August 2005).

(57) The one exception to this apparent lack of substantive progress was the signing of two documents implementing the Marine Electronic Highway demonstration project (see note 46 above) and the announcement of a substantial contribution by Korea to the project. ("Global efforts to ensure maritime security in Malacca Straits promoted," Korea Times, 14 September 2005, at gisa_read.asp?key=10970 [19 September 2005].)

(58) Australia and New Zealand were recently reported to be prepared to help the littoral states carry out aerial and surface patrols of the straits if formally asked. ("Australia, New Zealand keen to patrol Melaka Strait," Malaysian National News Agency, 15 September 2005, at [22 September 2005].)

(59) The rights and obligations of user states and littoral states regarding straits used for international navigation are set out in Part III of the Law of the Sea Convention.
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Author:Roach, J. Ashley
Publication:Journal of International Affairs
Geographic Code:9SING
Date:Sep 22, 2005
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