The US wants it, and India, China and others may be waiting to move in, but Malaysia continues to maintain that there is no need for "outsiders" to patrol the Malacca Strait.
Stating that piracy and other crime on the Malacca Strait has reduced in the last three years in the vital sea lane, a senior government official, speaking on condition of anonymity here, said emphatically: "There is no need for outsiders to come in."
"There is no real danger. Piracy and other crime have to be settled by the navies, the marine crew and maritime agencies," he said in response to questions about security in the Malacca Strait through which at least 600 ships pass daily.
The 960-km narrow sea lane, sandwiched between Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, is one of the world's busiest waterways with about 50,000 ships plying the route annually, carrying half of the world's oil and one-third of the world's trade.
Malaysia's top policeman, Inspector General Musa Hassan, told a conference of maritime industry security experts here Tuesday that the threat was "real and plausible" and that there was need for vigilance to battle maritime terrorism, including attacks on ships, the hijacking of ships carrying dangerous materials and the use of vessels to attack ports.
Such attacks on the crucial trade route would cripple economies globally, he said.
The problem is especially acute in Indonesia. There were 325 reported pirate attacks worldwide in 2004, while nine occurred in Malaysian waters and eight in Singaporean waters, a total of 93 occurred in Indonesian waters.
On June 4, Indonesia's Defence Minister Juwono Sudarsono called on Japan, China and South Korea to help, including by providing technical assistance to his cash-strapped nation secure the vital Malacca Strait.
"What we lack in Indonesia is effective capacity to deploy resources, equipment, ships," he said at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue, a regional security conference.
According to the International Maritime Bureau, worldwide pirate attacks fell for the third year in a row in 2006. Attacks on ships at sea in 2006 fell to 239 vessels, down from 276 in 2005.
That same trend echoed in the Strait of Malacca where attacks dropped from 79 in 2005 to 50 in 2006. Nonetheless, in 2004, the region accounted for 40 percent of piracy worldwide.