Eyes of the Fleet

Eyes of the Fleet

Monday, December 12, 2005

The times they are a'changing: Territorial issues getting resolved in Malacca

Reported here:
Four Southeast Asian countries -- Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand -- are expected to soon agree on a standard operating procedure (SOP) in securing the pirate-infested Strait of Malacca, according to a senior official.

Chief of the Indonesian Navy's western fleet Rear Adm. Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno said on Saturday that under the SOP, patrol boats from each country could enter each other's water territory when chasing pirates, but needed to refrain from taking military action or opening fire.

Tedjo said that in the past, cross-border pursuit had been hampered by the territory issue.

"But once the SOP is signed, it will be a different story," he was quoted by state news agency Antara as saying...

...The three littoral states of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore launched coordinated sea patrols of the strait last year, but piracy and robbery have remained rampant and they are under pressure from major users such as Japan and the United States to step up security. The three states later invited Thailand, as a close neighbor, to conduct a joint patrol of the strait.

Elsewhere, Tedjo said in addition to the sea patrol, the "Eyes in the Sky" coordinated air patrol by the four countries was recently launched.

Under the program, the personnel or aircraft of each country could also enter each other's territory, but the limit was set at three nautical miles from the coast, he said.

Tedjo also said that governments of user countries, such as the U.S. and Japan, were expected to soon deliver promised assistance, including in the form of equipment and training.

Compared to the past two years, security in the Strait of Malacca, however, seems to be improving.

Pottengal Mukundan, London-based director of the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), said there was a dramatic reduction in attacks on ships in the strategic waterway this year, thanks to intensified efforts by Indonesia to boost naval and air patrols.

Mukundan said Indonesia launched large-scale sea and air patrols in July to enforce maritime security in the strait in an operation code-named Gurita 2005.

As a result, there was a sharp drop in attacks to 10 in the first nine months of 2005 from 25 in the same period of 2004.

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