Maritime Cooperation in the Straits of Malacca (2016-2020): Challenges and Recommend For a New Framework

Maritime Cooperation in the Straits of Malacca (2016-2020): Challenges and Recommend For a New Framework
Asian Journal of Research in Education and Social Sciences
                                                                            e-ISSN: 2682-8502 | Vol. 2, No. 2, 10-32, 2020

       Maritime Cooperation in the Straits of Malacca (2016-2020):
          Challenges and Recommend For a New Framework
          Noraini Zulkifli1*, Raja Ismail Raja Ibrahim1, Azrul Azlan Abdul Rahman1,
                                   Amer Fawwaz Mohd Yasid1
       Department of Strategy, Faculty of Management and Defence Studies, National Defence of University of

                                 *Corresponding Author:

                         Accepted: 1 June 2020 | Published: 15 June 2020

Abstract: The Strait of Malacca is one of the busiest maritime Sea Lanes of Communications
(SLOCs) in the world because of its importance in transporting goods trade. However, like
any other straits, Straits of Malacca also do not escape from maritime criminal attack. As a
Littoral States to Straits of Malacca, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore have taking
initiatives to improve the security in that area. This study will attempt to explain the priorities
and challenges of Malaysia and Indonesia to cooperate in the Straits of Malacca between
2016- 2020. It has three objectives: namely 1) to identify maritime threats in Straits of
Malacca; 2) to analyse the priorities and challenges of the Littoral States maritime
cooperation in the Straits of Malacca; 3) to recommend the potential of a new maritime
cooperation Malaysia-Indonesia in the Straits of Malacca. This study will use both primary
and secondary data. Primary data was collected from structured interviews involving ten
informants in various professional fields that are directly involved in maritime security in the
Straits of Malacca. Secondary data was collected from literature reviews based on scientific
publications, theses, journal articles, and online material, such as newspaper articles.
Primary data was also obtained from professional respondents from abroad through
electronic media such as email. The findings of this study show that, there have traditional
and non-traditional threats in Straits of Malacca; 2) Littoral States very committed to
enhance the maritime security and safety in Straits of Malacca but they facing financial and
facilities problems; 3) Littoral states should share the burden of responsibility to maintain
the maritime security and safety in the Straits of Malacca with other user nations as they also
used the waterway frequently.

Keywords: Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Straits of Malacca, Maritime Cooperation
1. Introduction

Strait of Malacca is one of the most important shipping lanes in the world which is derived
from a combination of geopolitical, economic, and military factors (H.-D. Evers & Gerke,
2010). The Strait is the main waterway between the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean,
linking three of the world's most populous nations China, India and Indonesia as well as
linking the regions west of the Strait with economic powerhouses such as China, Japan and
South Korea (Ibrahim & Khalid, 2007). It is located on the West at a line joining Pedropunt,
the northernmost point of Sumatra (5°40′N 95°26′E / 5.667°N 95.433°E) and Lem Voalan the
southern extremity of Goh Phuket [Phuket Island] in Siam [Thailand] (7°45′N 98°18′E /
7.75°N 98.3°E) and on the East at a line joining Tanjong Piai (Bulus), the southern extremity
of Peninsula Malaysia (1°16′N 103°31′E / 1.267°N 103.517°E) and Iju Kecil Island

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Maritime Cooperation in the Straits of Malacca (2016-2020): Challenges and Recommend For a New Framework
Asian Journal of Research in Education and Social Sciences
                                                                            e-ISSN: 2682-8502 | Vol. 2, No. 2, 10-32, 2020

(1°11.5′N 103°21′E / 1.1917°N 103.35°E) and thence to Karimun Kecil Island (1°10′N
103°23.5′E / 1.167°N 103.3917°E. (See Figure 2.1) (Rusli, Mustafa, & Wan Talaat, 2013).

                                  Map 1.1: Major Straits in South China Sea.
                                    Source: RSIS Policy Paper April (2009)

In map 1.1 above shows that the SEA SLOCs and Major Straits of the oil flows through the
Strait 3 times greater than the Suez Canal and 15 times greater than oil flows through the
Panama Canal is the importance of the Straits of Malacca and cannot be denied. Two thirds
of the tonnage passing through the Strait consists of crude oil from the Persian Gulf bound for
Japan, South Korea and China and it is predicted to increase as oil consumption in
economically fast-growing Asian countries is estimated to increase by an average of 3% per
annum between 2000 and 2025. China alone will account for one-third of that increase, which
will see its demand doubling to nearly 30 million barrels per day in 2025 from 14.5 million
barrels per day in 2000. With more than 84,000 vessels that navigate through the Strait every
year, Straits of Malacca plays a vital role in international trade (Map 1.1). Being one of the
key shipping lanes in the world, its significance is expected to increase (Bateman, Ho, &
Mathai, 2009).

1.1 The important of Straits of Malacca
A lot of Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs) trading between the Middle East and Northeast
Asia, transiting the Straits of Malacca rather than the Lombok Strait results in a saving of
about 1,000 miles or about 3 days steaming (Upadhyaya, 2010; Noraini 2016). Traversing the
Straits of Malacca rather than the Sunda Strait from the Cape of South Africa results in a
saving of 200 miles. Preference is given to an area that is better surveyed, provided with
reliable navigational aids, a readily available emergency response system and the availability
of good support facilities such as ship supports, repairs, crew change and cheaper bunkers.
Because of the Strait economic importance on the global scale, the continuous and
uninterrupted flow of energy supplies and other commodities is important for the entire
international community (H. Evers & Darit, 2011).

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Maritime Cooperation in the Straits of Malacca (2016-2020): Challenges and Recommend For a New Framework
Asian Journal of Research in Education and Social Sciences
                                                                            e-ISSN: 2682-8502 | Vol. 2, No. 2, 10-32, 2020

Besides the littoral states of the Strait - Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore, there are many
other countries whose economic well-being is highly dependent on the accessibility and
security of the Straits of Malacca. Among these countries, the economically most powerful
nations are Japan, South Korea, China and the US. As mentioned earlier, Straits of Malacca
caters for an annual traffic of approximately 84,000 vessels and the transport of 11 million
barrels of oil per day (Ismail, Azizuddin, & Sani, n.d.). The fact that North-eastern Asian
countries, such as China, Japan and South Korea, are the biggest oil consumers in Asia, these
nations are all interested in maintaining a secure waterway that allows them to fulfil their
economic objectives and in preserving the Straits of Malacca as a peaceful venue for strategic
calculations (Ibrahim & Khalid, 2007).

1.1.1 Economy
Straits of Malacca provides shortest East-West sea route compared to Indonesia’s Lombok
and Makassar Strait (Noraini, 2016). Due to its strategic advantage, it becomes the main route
for the merchant traffic between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. Straits of Malacca also
provides a short cut for ships from the Middle East to the East Asian countries. Malaysia’s
main container ports situated along the Strait handled approximately 12.9 million ‘Twenty-
foot Equivalent Unit’ (TEU) of containers in 2009. This is almost 90% of the total volume of
containers handled by Malaysia. As a nation that is relying on international trade and having
98% of its total trade being carried over the sea, the Straits of Malacca has become a major
lifeline of Malaysian trade. In 2007, a total of 70,718 ships transited the Straits of Malacca.
It’s safe and free passage was thus a major contributor to Malaysia’s Gross Domestic Product
(GDP) which was 42.3% in 2017 (H.-D. Evers & Gerke, 2010) .

                              Figure 1.1: Malaysia’s GDP by Sector – 2017
         Source: economy/malaysia/structure-of-economy.html

A survey conducted on vessels traffic in the Straits of Malacca indicates that about 84,000
vessels reported to Klang Vessel Tracking Systems (VTS) for the year 2007. (Figure1.1) The
survey deduced that Straits of Malacca traffic and total number of movements, including
transit and calling traffic is estimated to be 126,000. Based on these figures, the importance
of Straits of Malacca to the economy of Malaysia cannot be denied. The findings of the
survey prove that Straits of Malacca has become a major lifeline of Malaysian trade and a
major contributor to Malaysia GDP. This is much so to the two main economic powers of

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Asia, China and Japan It was estimated that this region consumes a quarter of global oil
consumption thus making it the biggest oil consuming region (Weitz, 2008).

    Table 1.1: Distribution of various vessels passing off One Fathom Bank in the Straits of Malacca
  Type of                                                 Year
  Vessel       2009       2010      2011       2012       2013     2014     2015        2016     2017
                 2,027      3,163      3,303      3,301         3,487         3,477        3,788         3,851       3,753
 Draft CR

                11,474     13,343     14,276     14,591         15,667       16,403       14,759        14,784       14,931
                 2,473      2,962      3,086      3,141         3,277         3,343        3,099         3,297       3,413
                 5,674      6,603      6,476      6,065         6,193         6,624        6,340         6,477       8,467
                14,521     18,238     20,101     20,091         19,575       20,187       20,818        22,615       23,736
Bulk Carrier     3,438      4,708      5,370      5,754         6,256         6,531        7,394         8,129       9,684
                 1,229      1,761      1,764      1,980         2,182         2,440        2,515         2,863       3,137
                 1,919      3,301      3,151      3,490         3,033         2,338        2,299         2,009       1,870
                  42         70         108        108           80             46           45            51          51
                  566        774        610        422           478           568          420           372          444
                  93         117        155        111           120           130          153            81          95
                  52         44         60         38            35             67           34            39          36
  Others         457       828      854       942      1951        982        957      1081                           1101
   Total        43,965   55,912    59,314   60,034    62,334     63,136     62,621    65,649                         70,718
                     Source: Klang VTS, Marine Department, Peninsular Malaysia (2018)

However, East Asia only produces 10% of its oil needs making it heavily reliant on the
supply of oil from the Middle East, transported via the Straits of Malacca. These stated facts
emphasised the importance of keeping the Straits of Malacca safe so as to ensure a free and
safe passage to maritime traffic.

1.1.2 Maritime Shipping
Any discussion concerning the safety of Straits of Malacca demands serious attention of all
parties involved. Threats to the security of Malaysian waters especially to the all-important
Straits of Malacca need to be tackled continuously. After the 9/11 terrorist attack, many
security analysts were worried with the possibility of a terrorist attack on ships traversing the
Straits of Malacca. Even though the Straits of Malacca has yet to see such incident, the
possibility of this “low probability high impact” occurrence cannot be taken lightly. The issue
of navigational safety in the Straits of Malacca is another issue that beckons the attention of
Malaysia, other littoral states, user states maritime planners and also the international
community. Even though shipping accidents has decreased from 63 in 2011 to 23 in 2017 the
safety of navigation in the Straits of Malacca continues to be a concern to maritime
community (Mohd Rusli, 2016).

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1.1.3 Environmental Security
Even though most of the accidents in the Straits of Malacca occur outside the control of the
littoral states, they posed serious concern to the littoral states due to the potential impact on
the strait’s eco-system. The possibility of oil spills in the event of sea collision will have
severe environmental impact on the beaches as many of Malaysia marine resorts and tourist
spots are also located along the Strait, contributing significantly to tourism revenue besides
affecting the major fishing grounds in the Strait. These negative impacts will not only
threaten economic activities, but it will also affect other supporting industries. Such situation
will have a very serious implication to Malaysia’s income and her socio-economic well-being
(Isfarin & Triatmodjo, 2015).

1.1.4 Marine Resources
Another significant contributor to the economies of the bordering states and the livelihood of
their people is fishing. The fishing industry of Malaysia is substantially concentrated in the
Straits of Malacca. A total of 109,771 fishermen were recorded working on licensed fishing
vessels in 2018 compared with 99,617 in 2017, an increase of 10.2%. The number of licensed
fishing vessels recorded in 2018 for the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia was 17,990 units
contributing 70.6% of total fishing fleet. In the year 2018, the fisheries sector which
comprised of marine capture fisheries and aquaculture, produced 1.76 million tonnes of food
fish with a value of RM7.4billion. It recorded an increase in the production of food fish by
6.0% and in value by 14.5% as compared to the year 2017. In the year 2018, the fisheries
sector contributed 1.2% to the GDP (Buang, 2006).

                    Table 1.2: Production of Marine Landings and Values by States 2018

                            Source: Fisheries Department Peninsular Malaysia (2019)

These data indicate that fishing industry has remained Malaysia’s significant employment
sector and the rising trend of fishing activities on the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia
affirm the Straits of Malacca important role.

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1.2 Piracy in The Straits of Malacca
Piracy in the Straits of Malacca has historically been an unresolved threat to ship owners and
mariners who ply the 900km-long (550 miles) sea lane. The topography in the Straits of
Malacca makes it very susceptible to piracy. However, it was, and still is, an important
passageway between China and India, and being the shortest route, is used heavily for trade
and commerce (MIMA, 2009).

1.2.1 Piracy in The Straits of Malacca: Recent Years
Traditionally two main factors contributed to piracy. One is the enormous volume of
commercial freight moving by sea and the other is the necessity of ships to pass through
congested maritime choke-points. The resultant dangers of piracy threaten human, economic,
political and environmental security of the littoral states. The years after the end of Cold War
brought an increase in the phenomenon of piracy in the Straits of Malacca. But to blame the
end of the Cold War for the upsurge of piracy in Southeast Asia is beside the point. It should
be noted that piracy was reportedly on the rise years before this conflict came to its end.
Nevertheless, the impression still lingers that piracy, together with other forms of organised
crimes, was boosted by energies that formerly were held in check by the East-West
confrontation. It is believed that part of the explanation no doubt is the attention paid to
piracy by the media in recent years. However, the problem is real enough and rightly draws
the attention of the international community (MIMA, 2009).

(a) Modern Day Pirates
Today’s pirates and criminals are usually well organized and well equipped with advanced
communications, weapons, and high-speed craft. The capabilities to board and commandeer
large vessel underway that was demonstrated in numerous piracy incidents could also be
employed to facilitate another threat to maritime safety, terrorist acts. Globalization and
liberalization brought about vast increase in international trade at sea and when more of high
value goods are transported by sea, there are more potential targets for criminal activities
(Abd & Shah, 2014). With the large number of ships sailing the waters around the world, this
situation provided a ready supply of potential targets for pirates and with continuously
increasing commercial traffic in the Straits of Malacca, targets became even more abundant
and more vulnerable than ever. Straits of Malacca geographical dimensions of narrow,
shallow reefed and crowded condition require ships to reduce speed to ensure safe passage
through the channel and these will dramatically heighten their exposure to middle sea
interception and attacks. Modern time piracy in Southeast Asia operated in a way that
generally two different types of pirates emerged: the opportunistic sea robbers, who operate
impulsively usually with a low level of organization aiming at smaller targets, and the
sophisticated pirate gangs, who act in a premeditated manner and are usually equipped with
sophisticated weaponry and tools of information and communication technology (Abd &
Shah, 2014).

(b) Organised Pirate Gangs
Organized pirate gangs represent another important type of pirates in Southeast Asian waters
and especially in the Straits of Malacca. These gangs are characterized by a higher level of
organization and sophistication compared to the hit-and-run robberies committed by
fishermen or other occasional pirates. They usually attack medium or larger sized vessels
including cargo ships, bulk carriers and even tankers looking for cargoes that could be easily
sold on the local market, such as diesel fuel or electronic goods (Weitz, 2008). Organized
pirate gangs use the most sophisticated tools of information and communication technology
available including all sorts of technical equipment used for gathering intelligence and

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conducting surveillance on potentially targeted ships and cargoes. It is a common
characteristic of attacks prearranged by these groups to demand ransoms from the shipping
companies or national governments of the hijacked crew members. In general, two different
types of pirate attacks by organized groups could be distinguished: the so-called long term
and the permanent seizures (Simon, 2011).

(c) Piracy in Straits of Malacca: Present Day
Whenever the topic of Straits of Malacca was discussed, images of a waterway infested with
pirates often spring to mind. According to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), which
produces quarterly and annual reports on piracy and armed robbery against ships, there were
only two successful attacks by pirates on shipping in the Straits of Malacca in 2009. This low
level of piracy has continued into 2010, with the Half Yearly Report issued by the Regional
Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia
(ReCAAP) Information Sharing Centre in Singapore listing only one attempted attack on a
vessel in the Straits of Malacca (Ismail, 2010). Considering that more than 84,000 vessels
transit the Strait on an annual basis, the proportion of ships being attacked in the waterway is
extremely small. To keep pace and be updated with the change in the frequency of pirate
attacks and the scale of the problem. While piracy has certainly been a concern in the
waterway in the past, with reported attacks reaching 75 in 2000, the number of cases has been
falling since 2005 to almost a negligible figure for the past three years, largely as a result of a
number of counter-measures introduced by the three littoral states of Malaysia, Singapore,
and Indonesia. This decrease in attacks was achieved despite a significant increase in piracy
cases worldwide. However, despite the dropped in the number of attacks, ships transiting the
Straits of Malacca are still advised to continue to maintain a strict anti-piracy watch due the
remaining piracy threats (Bateman et al., 2009).

2. National Security Challenge in Straits of Malacca

Malaysia proper is composed of two land masses with a total area of 330,252 square
kilometres (sq. km) namely i) West Malaysia or Peninsula Malaysia and (ii) East Malaysia on
Borneo Island. Both are separated by the South China Sea with a usual flight distance of 920
nautical miles (nm) or 1711 kilometres (km). With the coastline of some 4,675 km (that is
West Malaysia 2,068 km, East Malaysia 2,607 km), Malaysia’s geographical condition
exemplifies the most common boundary problems faced by most littoral states throughout
Southeast Asia. Bordered by Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, The Philippines and Brunei,
Malaysia is involved in territorial disputes and overlapping maritime claims with almost all
its neighbours. Malaysia’s territorial and maritime disputes stretch from the Gulf of Thailand,
the Andaman Sea, the Straits of Malacca, the Strait of Singapore, the South China Sea, the
Sulu Sea, and to the Celebes Sea. This chapter will endeavour to look at disputes among the
littoral states of Straits of Malacca, the challenges, cooperation and current and future
initiatives that can be taken to ensure a safer strait for maritime community (Ba, 2018).

2.1 Maritime Safety Issues in Straits of Malacca
There are over 200 straits and canals throughout the world and only a few are considered
strategic chokepoints for the movement of raw and finished goods. Thus, the importance of
Straits of Malacca to world maritime community cannot be denied. The global importance of
this waterway is such that its closure, or even restriction, would severely impact world
economies. When the topic of Straits of Malacca was raised, the issue of piracy will always
come to the fore. This is due to its physical attribute that the confined waters of the Strait
make the ships that transit it vulnerable to piracy and sea robbery. However, issues of Straits

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of Malacca should be viewed from a wider perspective. The challenges of maritime safety to
Straits of Malacca encompass the traditional and the non-traditional threat to security (Simon,

2.1.1 Traditional Threat
The whole length of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore is bordered by four States, namely,
Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore. Thailand, however, borders the Straits only
briefly, on the eastern side of its western entrance for a distance of 50 nautical miles, where
the width of the waterway is approximately 200 miles. The navigational channel of the Straits
only passes through the territorial waters of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Thus, for the
purpose of this thesis, the littoral States of the Straits of Malacca will only be referring to
Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore (Ismail, 2010). The ability to secure straits while allowing
for innocent passage is exceedingly more difficult in areas where straits are controlled by
multiple nations. Straits controlled by a single nation, such as the Bosporus Strait controlled
by Turkey, do not require bilateral or multilateral agreements in order to delineate security
procedures or security responsibilities. Straits of Malacca controlled by multiple nation’s
present sovereignty and enforcement issues, making security agreements that establish
security and enforcement procedures imperative. However, the major stumbling block to
optimum security cooperation between the littoral states of the Straits of Malacca is the
dispute over the maritime boundaries. The subsequent incident after the arrests of Indonesian
maritime personnel by the Malaysian Marine Operation Force on the 18 August 2010
illustrates the importance of a clear and agreeable maritime boundary between littoral states
(Simon, 2011).

2.1.2 Non-Traditional Threat
With the end of the Cold War, most of the traditional maritime security issues, especially the
issues of overlapping claims and boundary disputes among States in Southeast Asia were
deemed to be unnecessary irritants that leaders of the Southeast Asian governments preferred
not to have to deal with. Any armed conflict could adversely affect the economic
environment and the need for good working relations among the States and the necessity for
regional cooperation becomes the main agenda. Thus, the more serious issues at hand were
non-military in nature. Piracy and armed robbery against ships are among the more recent
concern of maritime crime in Straits of Malacca that has drawn international attention to it (T.
Lee & McGahan, 2015).

People in the Littoral villages of Sumatra and Malaysia, especially on the west coast, have a
tradition of what is regarded by modern standards as maritime criminality. They have long
been involved in piracy, smuggling, and trafficking in commodities and people. International
borders in these areas were unknown in the past, although there would have been long-
standing recognition of where limits of traditional lands, waters, or rights existed. The
practices of smuggling, trafficking, and seeking employment away from home areas have not
stopped merely because colonial and postcolonial administrations have established national
borders. Furthermore, the people on both sides of a modern border the Straits of Malacca may
be closely related, speak the same language and have a lot in common with each other thus
visiting relatives across the Strait of Malacca may not bother about the formality of border
controls, and may take “gifts” along. These are generally harmless activities, but it can
assume more dangerous proportions, particularly when drugs or arms are involved (Mun,

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(a) Smuggling
Smuggling and the movement of people both have long histories in Southeast Asia and the
Straits of Malacca is no exception where they are frequently regarded as extensions of
historical trading arrangements between neighbours. It involves cigarettes, illegal immigrants,
sex trafficking, drugs, alcohol and other valuable commodities. Traditional fishermen may be
the parties that are carrying out the smuggling activities, but it was believed that the real
masterminds are located on shore and keep themselves at arm’s length from illegal activity
(Shintaro, 2008).

(b) Illegal Migration
Across Straits of Malacca, illegal immigrants generally originate from Indonesia and down
the strait from Thailand, Myanmar, or Bangladesh. As mentioned earlier, these peoples have
a strong and longstanding traditional family links across the Straits of Malacca and do not
regard themselves as illegal immigrants when moving across colonial boundaries. The
situation is aggravated by demand for cheap labour in the plantation, agricultural,
manufacturing and construction sectors of the Malaysian economy. However, it is not illegal
migration that is the major concern of Malaysia and attracting the attention of international
community. The exodus of illegal immigrants across Straits of Malacca comes in the form of
human trafficking making it Malaysia main concern (Bin Abdullah, 2011).

(c) Human Trafficking
As a Littoral state, human trafficking has become a major concern for Malaysia. The long
coastlines especially when parts of the coastline are relatively ungoverned (the so-called
ungazetted routes) provided a relatively cheap and inconspicuous movement for human
trafficking syndicates to operate. There is a need to distinguish trafficking from smuggling.
The key difference is that smuggling is voluntary while trafficking involves significant
deception, coercion, exploitation and control of movement. Nevertheless, in reality, the
boundaries between smuggling and trafficking are hazy as smugglers are often involved in
trafficking and individuals who pay to acquire services of a smuggler may end up in
exploitative conditions (Mun, 2013). Human Trafficking is defined as:

“Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or
other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or service, slavery or practices similar to
slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.” Gallagher, A. (2002).

Most human trafficking syndicates use Malaysia as a transit point and the modus operandi is
to transport the asylum seekers that arrived via Kuala Lumpur International Airport or Changi
airport to Indonesia via boats. Among the ‘hotspots’ of arrival and departures of the human
traffickers are the areas of Port Klang, Port Dickson, Lumut, Pontian, Tanjung Piandang
(Penang), Kuala Kedah. Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia are the main targets of human
trafficking syndicates. Malaysia is a source, transit and destination country, while Indonesia
is a source and transit country. These syndicates use Malaysia and Indonesia as transit
countries for victims destined to Australia. Malaysian sea border of Straits of Malacca
provided the easiest avenue of movement of these syndicates and this can be seen with the
number of arrests made on foreigners attempting to come into Malaysia via Straits of
Malacca. The marine police detained 863 foreigners, mostly Indonesians, who came into the
country illegally via the Straits of Malacca in May 2010. In comparison, the authorities made
2,435 arrests from January to May 2009 (Simon, 2011). Human trafficking via the sea is a
complex maritime challenge. States are worried that the transnational criminal syndicates
involving in human trafficking may be coerced by terrorist groups in using their vessels to

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inflict maritime terror. However, most importantly, it is a national security concern to
Malaysia and Straits of Malacca security plays a pivotal role in it (Mun, 2013).

(d) Drugs Trafficking
Drugs’ trafficking by sea is a major source of income for many transnationals, organized
criminal groups. One of the major source countries for opiates principally heroin in Southeast
Asia is Myanmar where drugs are sometimes moved via land routes but most of the time are
transported at sea. The manufacture and trafficking in methamphetamines (“ice”) and other
amphetamine-type stimulants (ATSs) from Myanmar and other Asia-Pacific countries are
increasing and the syndicates are using the Straits of Malacca as the main distribution route to
States in the Southeast Asia. What is more of a concern is Ephedrine and pseudoephedrine,
which are major precursor chemicals for the manufacture of methamphetamines and other
ATSs, are manufactured in China and India and the “ease” of smuggling this substance into
Malaysia mostly through Straits of Malacca have seen an increase of arrests of syndicates that
are involved in manufacturing the synthetic drugs locally. This is a worrying trend, because
the physiological impact of “ice” is far more serious than those of heroin, cocaine, cannabis,
ecstasy, or other ATSs (Simon, 2011).

(e) Arms Trafficking
Transnational crime in Southeast Asia is not complete without the mention of small-arms
trafficking. Being widely available in the region, trafficking by sea is the preferred means of
movement between customers in different States. Due to its geographical characteristics, its
role in the Cambodian conflict, and its relatively open society, Thailand is “an ideal point of
origin and transit in the trafficking of small arms.” During the troubles in Aceh, ‘Aceh
Liberation Movement’ (GAM) was a major recipient of small arms and light weapons
smuggled across the Straits of Malacca from South Thailand. The trade is managed by
criminal syndicates and is largely carried by sea in containers rather than by small boat. The
proliferation of small arms and light weapons trafficking is a major factor underpinning the
incidence of maritime crime in Southeast Asia. Illegal trafficking occurs across the Straits of
Malacca and the Andaman Sea from southern Thailand into Aceh, Bangladesh, India, and Sri
Lanka needs serious action and measures which might assist in reducing the violence of acts
of piracy and sea robbery in Straits of Malacca (Weitz, 2008).

(f) Illegal Fishing
Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is a world-wide phenomenon with
disastrous environmental and socio-economic impact, threatening the sustainable exploitation
of living aquatic resources and marine biodiversity. It also has serious overall consequences
for littoral states like Malaysia and Indonesia, the two Littoral states of Straits of Malacca
who lose out on marine resources to illegal operators. This loss of resources means a loss of
revenue, with legitimate fishermen facing an unfair price competition from illegal operators
who also rob them of their livelihood (K. W. F. Lee, 2005). The Straits of Malacca which
serves as an international route between the Indian Ocean and Southeast Asian seas turns out
to be an area where illegal fishing is rife and it is most serious problem to Indonesia. The
illegal operations of foreign fishing boats were causing great losses to traditional fishermen
as proven by the fact that the latter`s catches were declining significantly. Having a more
developed fishing industry than Indonesia, Malaysia fishing stock are fast depleting
compared to its neighbour across the Strait. Using their larger vessels and more sophisticated
fishing techniques, Malaysian fishermen are tempted to cross into Indonesian-claimed waters
to exploit the fish stocks there. Indonesia has reported a loss of approximately US4 billion

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annually in fish revenue to IUU fishing which is more than US2.2 billion the Indonesians are
getting from their own maritime resources (Ba, 2018).

(g) Piracy and Armed Sea Robbery
Before discussing in detail about piracy and armed robbery, it is important to clarify the
terminology used. 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). Two
different definitions are used by the two organisations on piracy (Weitz, 2008). 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. 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. Even
though other types of maritime crimes are on the rise, piracy and armed robbery against ships
in Southeast Asia and Straits of Malacca in particular have actually gone down significantly
in recent years. As was shown in the previous chapter, the number of reported piracy attacks
in the region has trended steadily downward from 2004 to the present.

According to Bateman, the large number of attacks in the earlier years may be attributed to
two main factors. First, it may have been a consequence of the economic downturn of the late
1990s, with more people turning to sea robbery for income. Second, several high-profile
pirate attacks in the late 1990s might have drawn increased attention to piracy, which in turn
may have led to increased reporting of incidents (Ismail et al. n.d.). The economic downturn
of the late 1990s has affected countries in the Southeast Asia region. The 1997 monetary
crisis rocked the closely interconnected Southeast Asian economies, severely shaking many
regional political institutions. The most notable effect was the stepping down of Indonesian
Suharto regime after 35 years in power which led to poor governance during the power
transition. This event has led to a dramatic increase of piracy incidents from 1998-2000,
jumping from 96 incidents to 259 in the SEA region. The bleak economic prospects have
turned many fishermen and those communities living by the coast of Straits of Malacca to
turn to piracy and armed sea robbery. Pirates could be anyone, from the opportunistic
fisherman, to members of syndicates and even rogue military units (Shintaro, 2008).

Statistics by IMB should be noted with some reservations. There is a possibility of under
reporting of attacks. Some shipmasters and ship owners are reluctance to report incidents, due
to concern that an investigation might disrupt the ship’s schedule and at the same time
increase insurance premiums. There are several reasons for the improved situation. National
and regional responses, including increased patrolling and surveillance which has been
discussed in previous chapter, have been important, although operations at sea have a mainly
deterrent effect; few pirates or sea robbers are actually caught at sea. It was the tighter
government control and local policing ashore that have also contributed to the improved
situation. Larger vessels transiting the Straits of Malacca gain considerable protection from
their size and speed (Ibrahim, 2008). Most modern merchant ships engaged in international
trade travel in excess of fourteen knots, and it is both difficult and dangerous for small craft
to attempt to approach them at such speeds. The introduction of the International Ship and
Port Facility Security Code by the IMO in 2002 and its coming into force in 2004 create

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greater awareness generally in the shipping industry of the importance of security. With the
exception of insecurity in some ports and anchorages, such as in Bangladesh (entrance to the
Straits of Malacca), piracy and sea robbery in the region appears to be under control.
Preventive measures taken by regional countries both at sea and on shore have largely been
effective, although policing against maritime crime could still be improved (Ba, 2018).

(h) Maritime Terrorism
Straits of Malacca, given the nature and volume of trade passing through it, is widely
considered to be a prime target for terrorists intending to disrupt international commerce. 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. The presence of terrorist groups in
this region and the hardening of land target are believed to be making the maritime targets
more attractive to terrorist groups (Buang, 2006). Other terrorism experts reject the existence
of links between terrorist activity and the shipping attacks. The scenario that is most common
when discussing terrorist attack in Straits of Malacca is the notion that the Strait could be
physically blocked. However, this scenario is made on inadequate knowledge of the operating
environment. The area that is often identified as an area where the strait could be blocked is
the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) which is only 0.6 nautical miles wide, located in the
vicinity of One Fathom Bank, off Port Klang in the Straits of Malacca. But the reality is, the
distance from coast to coast outside the TSS is much greater and would still allow the passage
of most vessels.

More catastrophic scenarios such as attacks on liquefied natural gas or liquefied petroleum
gas tankers, either through the planting of devices on board or by the use of a tanker as a
mobile weapon to strike secondary targets are deemed improbable, due to the technical
complexities involved and the opportunity and expertise required to execute such mission and
with the numerous security measures implemented in every LNG shipment, LNG terminals
and tankers are extremely hard targets. The potential of such attack was given
disproportionate focus, due to the common phrase of “Low Probability, High Impact
Incident” which keeps all players in Straits of Malacca in higher alert state. This situation will
no doubt incur higher costs in the already high cost of maintaining the safety of the Strait
(Abdullah & Kadir, 2006).

3. Recommended for a New Framework

The sea dominates Southeast Asia, covering roughly 80 percent of its area. The region’s
islands and peninsulas, wedged between the Pacific and Indian Oceans, border major arteries
of communication and commerce. Thus, the economic and political affairs of Southeast Asia
have been dominated by the sea. Today more than half of the world’s annual merchant
tonnage traverses the Southeast Asian waters. Its oceans and seas yield vast revenues in
industries such as fishing, hydrocarbon extraction, and tourism thus making more than half of
Southeast Asian states today live in and rely economically on the maritime zones. Those
dangers include territorial disputes, non-state political violence, transnational crime and
environmental degradation (Isfarin & Triatmodjo, 2015).

Due to their colonial history, the littoral states have traditionally been concerned with
preserving their sovereignty and territorial integrity from outside interference. Indonesia,
Malaysia and Singapore, pointed out that it is their responsibility to ensure the safety and
security of the Straits of Malacca. Unfortunately, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore have
traditionally been reluctant to cooperate sufficiently among themselves thus making their

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maritime boundaries effectively porous for action by other states' law enforcement agencies.
This creates havens for the criminals and abets criminal activities in the strait (Awang,
Zakaria, Hassan, Lungit, & Abdullah, 2000). Maritime safety, accordingly, is at the forefront
of Southeast Asian states political concerns. This is more so to the Straits of Malacca as
threats to it will not only affect the littoral states but it will also have great consequence to the
global scenario. Cooperation in this chapter refers to cooperation among the littoral states,
with the aim of improving the overall security and safety environment in the Straits of

3.1 Regional Cooperation
Successful response to maritime security threats requires international cooperation, because
those threats are primarily transnational. Recent years has seen notable cooperation among
littoral states, ASEAN and international communities in ensuring safety of the Straits of
Malacca. Cooperation, in its broad sense, occurs when states, in order to realize their own
goals, modify policies to meet preferences of other states (Isfarin & Triatmodjo, 2015).
Southeast Asia was regarded as a relatively stable region in which the maturity of ASEAN
had made significant contributions to the overall improvement of relations amongst the
member states. During the Cold War, the region had been polarized between the communist
and free market states, but the collapse of communism in 1989 relaxed tension and produced
a general reconciliation between the two camps. The addition of Laos and Vietnam in 1992,
and of Cambodia and Myanmar in 1995, to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation—originally
concluded in 1976 for the peaceful settlement of intraregional disputes in a framework of
absolute respect for state sovereignty—cemented the inclusion of the former communist-bloc
states into the ASEAN community and by 1991, the region’s few remaining communist-
inspired insurgencies had been localized, and almost all of its states had earned unquestioned
international legitimacy (Rahman, 2014). The strategic importance of the Malacca and
Singapore Straits as sea lanes of communication bring with it a number of problems. These
are not only related to the safety of navigation and maritime security, but also to the
protection of the marine environment. Sharing the concerns to address the problems
mentioned, the littoral states of Straits of Malacca, namely Malaysia, Indonesia and
Singapore agreed on a joint effort to manage it and a Ministerial Meeting was held in
November 1971 to deal with those matters. A Tripartite Ministerial Joint Statement on 16
November 1971 announced the requirement for tripartite cooperation on the safety of
navigation in the Malacca and Singapore Straits, and the establishing of a body for
cooperation to coordinate efforts for the safety of navigation in the Straits of Malacca and
Singapore (Isfarin & Triatmodjo, 2015).

3.1.1 Safety of Shipping – Littoral States Action
Since the signing of the 1971 Joint Statement, littoral states have established two fundamental
policies. First is the basic principle of managing the Strait; and second is its institutional
framework. The littoral states hold firm position that the responsibility over the Strait lies
within the littoral states, including its efforts to ensure safety of navigation, maintain security,
and protect the environment in the Strait. This position was further strengthened by the
conclusion of Article 34 of the UNCLOS 1982, which clearly states that the sovereignty or
jurisdiction over such waters and air space, seabed and subsoil by states bordering the Strait
used for international navigation Straits of Malacca and Singapore shall be respected (Weitz,
2008). As an institutional framework, the littoral states agreed to form three-layer
mechanisms namely the Tripartite Ministerial Meeting, Tripartite Senior Official Council,
and Tripartite Technical Expert Group Meeting. The Tripartite Ministerial Meeting, being the
highest political institutional framework of the Strait, met in 1975 after prompted by the

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accident of the giant tanker Showa Maru in the Strait of Singapore on 6 January 1975 which
then led to the signing of an Agreement on Safety of Navigation in the Straits of Malacca and
Singapore in 1977. This Agreement reiterated the spirit encapsulated in the 1971 Joint
Statement that paved the way for the determination to further promote existing tripartite
cooperation and coordination on measures and actions to be taken in the Straits of Malacca
and Singapore (Simon, 2011). Efforts to promote safety of navigation and environmental
protection in the Strait since 1977 have been largely the responsibility of Tripartite Technical
Experts Group (TTEG), while negotiation on the legal status of the Strait were going on in
the 3rd UN Law of the Sea Conference. The Law of the Sea Conference finally adopted the
UNCLOS 1982 Article 43 of the Convention stipulated the need for cooperation between the
littoral states and the users. This was further strengthened by the Jakarta Meeting which
was organized by IMO and the three littoral states on 7-8 September 2005, where it was
agreed that Article 43 should be used as a basis for mechanism to cooperate between the
Littoral states and the users of the Strait, either states or other stakeholders (Shintaro, 2008).

3.1.2 Safety of Shipping - Cooperative Mechanism
The Kuala Lumpur Meeting on the Straits of Malacca and Singapore on 18 - 20 September
2006 agreed to form a “Cooperative Mechanism” between the littoral and the user states on
safety of navigation and environmental protection in the Strait, including for burden sharing
purposes. The establishment of the Cooperative Mechanism among the littoral states and the
users was reconfirmed in the Singapore meeting on 4 – 6 September 2007 and it consists of
three main components: (a) Cooperation Forum for open dialogues and discussions, (b)
Project Coordination Committee on the implementation of projects in cooperation with
sponsoring users, and (c) Aids to Navigation Fund (ANF) to receive financial contribution for
renewal and maintenance of navigational aids (Abd & Shah, 2014) .Cooperative Mechanism
provides opportunities and forums for all the users of the Strait, including states, shipping
industries, and other stakeholders, to participate and share their “Corporate Social
Responsibilities” (CSR) in protecting the environment and in promoting safety of navigation
in this very strategic Strait. To achieve its aim, the Cooperative Mechanism recognizes the
principle of territorial sovereignty, sovereign rights, as well as jurisdiction of the littoral
states. It also confirmed to UNCLOS Article 43 and the activities to promote safety of
navigation and marine environmental protection in the Strait shall be centred on the TTEG.
The Cooperative Mechanism recognized the interest of users and other stakeholders in the
Straits of Malacca and Singapore and their roles and contributions to the promotion of
cooperation in the Strait (Shintaro, 2008). The ANF Committee was launched on 16 – 17
April 2008 in Penang, Malaysia marking the first successful implementation of the
Cooperative Mechanism. It is administered and operated by the Marine Department
Peninsular Malaysia for a period of three years until 31 December 2010. A trust account
under the name of “Aids to Navigation Fund” has been constituted under Malaysian laws to
facilitate the operation of the Fund. Major contributions were pledged from South Korea,
United Arab Emirates (UAE), Nippon Foundation (NF) and Middle East Navigation Aids
Service (MENAS) (Zulkifli, Alatas, & Othman, 2014). Until 15 October 2009, ANF had
received funding and contributions amounting to USD4.67 million. The contributors were the
NF USD2.5 million, the Straits of Malacca Council (MSC) USD500,000, the UAE
USD100,000, MENAS USD1 million and India USD774,000 (Simon, 2011).

3.2 Cooperation Against Security Threats to The Strait of Malacca
Leaving aside definitions, what are the concerns of the ASEAN leaders that merit security
cooperation? One can approach this from a conceptual basis and think of traditional military
security issues at one end of a range merging into non-traditional security issues at the other

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end. Even this idea of "non-traditional security issues" may be problematic. The littoral states
of the Straits of Malacca consider that the threat to maritime security need to be handled in a
comprehensive manner thus avoiding the selective approach of addressing one particular
threat to maritime security. This is because armed robbery against ships, smuggling of goods,
peoples and weapons, as well as illegal fishing are serious breaches of maritime security. In
tackling armed robbery and other criminal acts at sea, the littoral states have initiated
numerous initiatives to counter them. These initiatives come in the form of security
cooperation such as the coordinated patrols, bilateral exercises, agreements, memorandums of
understanding and also in the form of forums and meetings (Ba, 2018).

3.2.1 Security Initiatives
Military attack or even the threat to launch such an attack is treated unambiguously as a
conventional security threat. Under this circumstance, the notion of "security against" is
applied, and security cooperation typically involves formal or informal military cooperation.
To give meaning to such cooperation, high degrees of military joint planning, exchange of
intelligence, training and exercising are expected during peacetime. Within this context,
security cooperation may be bilateral or multilateral, but always involving military assets
(Bateman et al., 2009). As one moves towards the other extreme, the notion of "security
with" may begin to be applied. But this is not specific. The degree of the military
involvement depends on the existence of military threats thus the need for military
preparedness and deterrence is acknowledged. But whereas the mindset of those involved in
alliances is "exclusiveness" (that is, not involving the source of the potential threat), the
mindset of those involved in "security with" is "inclusiveness", which seeks to overcome
mutual security concerns through engagements such as confidence-and trust-building
measures, notification of military exercises, security dialogues, preventive diplomacy,
defence diplomacy, etc. A clear statement of renewed interest in improving cooperation
includes the June 2003 “ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) Statement of Cooperation against
Piracy and Other Threats to Maritime Security” and the “Work Program to Implement the
ASEAN Plan of Action to Combat Transnational Crime” which was endorsed by the January
2004 ASEAN Ministerial Committee on Transnational Crime (T. Lee & McGahan, 2015).

3.2.2 Bilateral Agreements
It was argued that bilateral agreement is more productive than multilateral initiatives in
producing operational maritime cooperation. This specific approach is able to minimize
distrust and sovereignty sensitivities since they are set to match the aligned interests of the
states involved. Therefore, bilateral agreements are more likely to be operationalized between
states that generally share similar security outlooks and interests (Shintaro, 2008). Singapore
and Indonesia begun coordinating anti-piracy operations in their littoral waters since 1992
and Thailand has had long-established border security cooperation with Malaysia, and also
conducts bilateral military exercises with Malaysia and Singapore. The bilateral security
cooperation among Littoral states of Straits of Malacca indicates the close relation between
the defence forces of these states. Bilateral cooperation not only involved the defence forces,
but it also involves other government agencies. This can be seen by exercise such as
PATKOR OPTIMA which is specifically conducted for maritime enforcement agencies,
involving the Indonesian and Malaysian Marine Operation Force, Custom, Fisheries and
Immigration Departments. This exercise is conducted annually for seven days with the focus
on regulation of law and order in the Straits of Malacca such as action against illegal fishing,
illegal immigrants, smuggling and piracy (Ismail, 2010).

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3.2.3 Trilateral Agreements
The deep concern on the maritime security in the Malacca and Singapore Straits brought
together the littoral states to initiate a trilateral coordinated patrol known as MALSINDO on
the 21 July 2004. Launched in Batam Island of Indonesia, the coordinated patrol involves the
navies of the three states. This is a joint special task force by the littoral states to safeguard
the Strait and provide effective policing along the vital waterway. The year-round patrol
started with 17 ships from the three littoral states aimed at enhancing the present system of
patrolling the Straits of Malacca. This initiative has resulted in a more coordinated and
structured patrols. The trilateral coordinated patrol is another indication of the littoral states’
effort in combating piracy and the perceived threat of maritime terrorism in the Strait. The
security patrol will ensure the seafarers that their safety is a major concern and is being taken
care of by the littoral states. The littoral states’ navies will patrol within each individual
territorial water. However, in order to be more effective, the possibility of joint patrols with
greater scope of information sharing are being worked out where the possibility of hot pursuit
will be considered to ensure more effective enforcement (Abd & Shah, 2014).

(a) Integrated Maritime Security System.
The Integrated Maritime Security System (IMSS) is a comprehensive approach in the system
of securing the Straits of Malacca involving several components like the Straits of Malacca
Identification System (MSIS), the Straits of Malacca Coordination Patrol (MSCP),
Coordinated Maritime Patrol Operation (CMAP), hot pursuit/cross border, intelligence and
information exchange as well as public information campaign. The introduction of IMSS is
aimed at convincing the world that the littoral states are capable of securing the Straits of
Malacca. This system is to facilitate efforts in combating crimes in the Straits of Malacca,
whereby participating countries set up an incident hotline stations in Sabang, Dumai
(Indonesia), Lumut (Malaysia), Phuket (Thailand), and Changi (Singapore) (Collin, 2016).

Malaysia and Singapore have also taken unilateral actions to stop piracy in their respective
ports of the Malacca and Singapore Strait. Malaysia has built a string of radar tracking
stations along the Straits of Malacca to monitor activities in the Strait and some new boats
have been acquired largely to combat piracy. Singapore has implemented a wide range of
measures to step up maritime security, including an integrated surveillance and information
network for tracking and investigating suspicious movements; intensified navy and
coastguard patrols; random escorts of high value merchant vessels plying the Singapore Strait
and adjacent waters; and the re-designation of shipping routes to minimize the convergence
of small craft with high risk merchant vessels (Vertzberger, 2017).

(b) Eye in the Sky
Another security initiative introduced by the littoral states to enhance security and safety in
the Straits of Malacca is called “Eye in the Sky” (EIS). The EIS concept is to mobilize
existing military assets of the three littoral states’ maritime patrol aircraft to complement the
coordinated patrol arrangement under the MALSINDO. The EIS is another assurance to the
inter-national community that the littoral states are serious in handling the security challenges
in the Straits of Malacca. As such, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand have come
to an agreement to work together by conducting combined maritime patrols over the Straits of
Malacca and Singapore without undermining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of any
of the littoral states (Vertzberger, 2017). This program was mooted by the then Deputy
Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Tun Razak during the Shangri-la Dialogue
in July 2005 in Singapore to complement MALSINDO. The program, started in September
2005, is also opened to other countries that wish to get involved by providing assistance in

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