SYMPOSIUM ON THE ENHANCEMENT OF SAFETY OF NAVIGATION AND THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION OF THE STRAITS OF MALACCA AND SINGAPORE
Thank you Mr Chairman.
First of all, I would like to echo with the other previous speakers and express my deepest gratitude to the Chairman and the organizers of the Symposium, namely MIMA in Kuala Lumpur, Center for Southeast Asian Studies in Jakarta, Nippon Foundation in Tokyo, and RSIS in Singapore for extending an invitation for the ReCAAP ISC to attend this Symposium.
ReCAAP ISC stands for Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in Asia Information Sharing Centre.
It is an informative and enlightening meeting for me in my appointment as the new Executive Director of the ReCAAP Information Sharing Centre.
IMPORTANCE OF STRAITS OF MALACCA AND SINGAPORE IN GLOBAL TRADE
As the previous speakers have said, the Straits of Malacca and Singapore is the most important trade route in international maritime transportation in the Asian region. It is the one of the world's busiest and most important shipping lanes.
The Straits is an important artery for international trade.
With projected growth in global trade and the rise of East Asian economies, navigation safety and environmental protection is critical for the continual growth of the Asian economy in international trade.
RECAAP INFORMATION SHARING CENTRE
The ReCAAP is the first regional government-to-government cooperative legal framework to combat piracy and armed robbery against ships in Asia.
The roles of the ReCAAP Information Sharing Centre (ISC) are: firstly, to facilitate communication and information exchange among member countries and follow-up investigations of incidents in accordance with the national policies and sovereignty of the respective countries. Secondly, to provide statistics and analysis of the piracy and sea robbery situation in the Asia region for the development of effective anti-piracy measures, sharing of best practices, and furthering governments' and shipping communities' understanding of the piracy and armed robbery situation in the region. Thirdly, to facilitate capacity building efforts to improve the capability of member countries in combating piracy and sea robbery in the region.
While the role of the ReCAAP Information Sharing Centre is not directly related to safety of navigation and environmental protection, this symposium makes me sure that there is close relationship between maritime security and safety of navigation as both are not mutually exclusive. The heightened perception of risks to ships traversing the Straits due to threats of piracy and armed robbery is likely to result in higher security costs, affect safety in navigation for other ships traversing the busy Straits; and raise environmental pollution concerns in the event of ship collisions.
Let me cite an actual incident reported to the ISC. That involved a general cargo ship, loaded with tin ingots, was hijacked while sailing and attempted to be sunk. A group of more than ten armed robbers boarded the vessel. They blindfolded the crew members and transferred them onto a smaller boat before abandoned them at an island. Notably, this is not the first time an incident happened in this area. There have been at least two other cases of armed robbery in the same area. For this case, fortunately, the owner of the ship was able to locate the ship via the GPS tracking system, a device that was installed on board the ship for safety of navigation, and could initiate salvage operations before the ship sank. This is a typical example that maritime safety, security and environmental protection are interlinked with each other.
The ReCAAP ISC focuses on combating piracy and armed robbery against ships in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore as well as the other sea routes in Asia. It provides a platform and structured framework for regional authorities to exchange views and share best practices, which would in turn build up their capabilities to effectively prevent and combat piracy and armed robbery.
A more comprehensive and integrated approach to maritime security, safety and environmental protection in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore is necessary to ensure the sustenance of global trade through this waterways which is an important artery for international trade. The ISC, in its cooperation with its member countries under the ReCAAP initiative is committed in ensuring that the Straits of Malacca and Singapore are "safe, secure and efficient shipping on clean ocean" as articulated in the International Maritime Organisation's motto.
MEASURES TAKEN TO IMPROVE SECURITY
As Dr BA Hamzah had pointed out this morning there is evidence in the sharp decline of piracy incidents and sea robberies in the Straits. While the numbers of incidents has dropped in the past 3 years, it is premature at this juncture to suggest that the acts of piracy and sea robbery will continue to decline, or has come to an end in these waters. However, we shall note positively that several measures were undertaken by Malaysia. Singapore and Indonesia to improve the security in the Straits were effective, namely the MALSINDO co-ordinated maritime patrol by the navies of the 3 littoral states and the 'Eye in the Sky' air surveillance over the Straits. The establishment of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) in 2004 may have deterred the armed robbers from operating in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore.
I sincerely hope that the ReCAAP ISC can contribute towards the security of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore together with the initiatives by the littoral states, and thus able to contribute towards the enhancement of safety of navigation and the environmental protection as a whole.