Higher traffic in Malacca Strait raises concerns about accidents

Bambang Muryanto The Jakarta Post 27 Sep 16;

The increasing number of ships passing through the Malacca Strait is a cause for concern, said participants of a tripartite forum seeking to negotiate joint control measures to prevent maritime accidents.

Delegates from Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, grouped under the Tripartite Technical Expert Group (TTEG), are gathering in Yogyakarta to talk about shipping safety and environmental protection in the Malacca and Singapore Straits (SOMS).

The parties have agreed that joint control measures would be the best way to reduce accidents to prevent marine pollution and decreased trade.

“SOMS is one of the most strategic straits in the world for shipping line[s],” Indonesian Transportation Ministry secretary general Sugihardjo said at the opening of the TTEG gathering on Monday.

He said that in 2007, more than 62,000 ships passed through the straits and the figure was predicted to reach around 140,000 in 2020.

Sugihardjo added that marine pilotage was important so that fully loaded ships passing through the shallow and narrow SOMS would not run aground. He said marine pilotage was still voluntary for the three countries.

Pilotage, he said, could be conducted separately by each of the three countries in their respective territories. “But I will not suggest this. I suggest [a] close relationship and cooperation between the countries in piloting the ships passing through the SOMS. This is the best way based on ASEAN brotherhood,” he said.

He said the three countries could copy the mechanism implemented by countries around the Baltic Sea, which also cooperated on marine pilotage.

Meanwhile, deputy director general of Marine Department Malaysia, Dato’ Rossid bin Musa, said marine pilotage had so far not been conducted in an orderly fashion. This, according to him, was a serious problem as ship traffic in the SOMS was very tight and some 60 million barrels of crude oil were transported through the straits annually. “The three countries continue discussing for the best rule,” he said.

Rossid also said the Malaysian government had given serious attention to environmental damage in the straits due to oil spills caused by ship accidents. He said his country had obtained new equipment to deal with oil spills and carried out assessments whenever an accident occurred.

“For supporting this agenda, Malaysia will share its effort and activity to protect the straits from oil spill pollution,” he said.

Separately, Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) Singapore chief executive Andrew Tan said some 60 ship accidents occurred in the SOMS in 2015. So far, he said, when a ship accident occurred, the country where the accident occurred led efforts to handle it.

“We have to work hard in addressing this situation,” he said, adding that his country was willing to organize training for marine pilotage through professional and sophisticated technology.

Apart from the delegates from the three countries with coastal areas located along the SOMS, delegates from SOMS user countries such as Australia, China, Germany, India, Japan, Denmark and other countries whose vessels regularly pass through the straits also joined the forum.

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