Philippine Sea

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Indonesia forest fires creates Malacca Strait haze risk and may aid pirates

Smoke on the water alert
"Ships plying the Strait of Malacca face a navigational hazard after a thick haze blanketing the Malaysian peninsula cut visibility to less than one km (1,100 yards) in parts of the vital sea lane, officials said on Tuesday. Acrid white smoke from forest fires in neighbouring Indonesia has covered parts of Malaysia for almost a week, prompting environment officials to ban open fires until the end of a dry spell they say has aggravated the situation. National news agency Bernama quoted meteorological officials as saying that the haze had hit visibility in the Strait, which carries a quarter of global trade, and posed a hazard especially to vessels without navigational aids. Noel Choong, head of the Piracy Reporting Centre in Kuala Lumpur, said that if the haze persisted, pirates could use it as a screen from behind which to launch attacks on shipping."
Of course, there is radar, but
Pirates operating at the northern end of the Strait used more sophisticated weapons and tended to attack during the day, he said, but the less organised gangs in the southern stretch preferred to attack under cover of night.
"Not all the boats can be detected by radar," Choong added. "Wooden boats would probably escape detection."
. One more thing to consider...

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