IMO and the Government of Indonesia host meeting on the Straits of Malacca and Singapore

This week the IMO and the Government of the Republic of Indonesia jointly hosted the Jakarta Meeting on the Straits of Malacca and Singapore – Enhancing Safety, Security and Environmental Protection. INTERTANKO's General Counsel & Regional Manager John Fawcett-Ellis participated. This meeting followed the Fourth Tripartite Ministerial Meeting of the Littoral States on the Straits of Malacca and Singapore held in Batam this August, which had resulted in the Batam Joint Statement on closer cooperation between the littoral states to enhance maritime security in the region. 

The Jakarta meeting began with opening addresses from the Indonesian Minister of Transportation and the Secretary General of the IMO. The Secretary General emphasised that this meeting was timely as it followed the adoption of the Batam Joint Statement and would provide the littoral states with an opportunity to outline how they intend to implement their undertakings under the Joint Statement. His Excellency encouraged participants to identify the actions necessary to contribute to the building of confidence among the various stakeholders to address the demands of safety, security and environmental protection whilst at the same time respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the three littoral states and the relevant provisions of international law. 

The meeting was attended by some 30 States and observer delegations to the IMO. Delegates heard the views of the three littoral states, all of whom called for greater cooperation. The principal user states of China, Japan and the Republic of Korea gave their views and offered to assist both in terms of cooperation and capacity building. Ship operators, represented by INTERTANKO and ICS, participated in the discussions. The discussions covered the three issues of security, safety and protection of the marine environment and resulted in the issue of the Jakarta Statement. 

Security 

The littoral states agreed to set up a Tripartite Technical Experts Group on maritime security and also agreed to expand cooperation and operational arrangements on coordinated patrols and maritime security training. The need to strengthen capacity building was also identified. The recent so-called “Eyes in the Sky” initiative was highlighted; the use of aircraft to patrol the Straits and hasten the response time of sea based units is welcomed. Also the Malacca Straits Security Initiative (MSSI) was emphasised. The MSSI deals, inter alia, with the coordinated patrols in the various sectors of the Straits. 

During the discussions one particular aspect that was identified was the need to fit transponders to all small craft that ply the Straits so that illicit vessels can be identified more easily. Whilst Singapore has already taken this step, the other two littoral states have yet to do so. This is perhaps an area where the offers of cooperation from user states can be taken up.  

Malaysia emphasised that it had established a Maritime Enforcement Agency to integrate the enforcement works of its Marine Department, Marine Police, Navy and the Departments of Environment and Customs. This further demonstrates the sincerity of the littoral states to ensure that the effectiveness of their resources is maximised and well coordinated. 

Safety of navigation 

It was agreed that the work of the Tripartite Technical Experts Group on safety of navigation should continue to be supported and encouraged.  

During the discussions a presentation was made by the Nippon Foundation, which funds the Straits Council. The Straits Council has over the years provided navigational aids to the Straits totalling some USD 130 million with annual costs running at USD 0.5 million. Despite regular and diligent maintenance work it is recognised that some of the navigational aids will require replacing. The Nippon Foundation called on other user states to share the burden of this responsibility. The littoral states supported this as they felt the increasing burden of ensuring the safe navigation of the Straits should be shared. The states recognised that the cost of the navigational aids was best funded by a voluntary scheme as opposed to a compulsory one. 

Detailed presentations were made on the IMO-led Marine Electronic Highway (MEH) project, which would result in a large area of the Straits being accurately surveyed, the production of electronic navigational charts and the availability of an integrated system that would provide vessels navigating the Straits with real time information on tides and currents. The participation of industry, led by INTERTANKO together with the ICS and the International Hydrographic Organisation, was commended. 

Protection of the marine environment 

One of the aims of the MEH project is to safeguard the marine environment of the Straits by making navigation safer. 

During the discussions Indonesia emphasised that the Straits have suffered a great deal of wear and tear over the years due to the huge volume of shipping and called for a thorough environmental study of the impact of international shipping on the coastal and sea environments. 

Future cooperation 

The IMO was invited to consider convening a series of follow-up meetings with a view to promoting and coordinating cooperative measures between the littoral states and user states. INTERTANKO is pleased to note that significant political advances have been made in internationalising the issues and is also encouraged that the IMO has been invited to play a continuing role and act as a catalyst to aid further cooperation.  

INTERTANKO hopes that the significant measures that have already been put in place by the littoral states, together with the strengthened cooperation and resolve to ensure that this vital sea lane is secure and safe for international shipping, will result in a re-evaluation of the area by the Joint War Committee of the London and the removal of the area from the list of areas of perceived enhanced risk. 

Contact: John Fawcett-Ellis