New security pact for Malacca Straits

With half of the world’s oil supplies and a third of its trade travelling through the Malacca Straits it seems to have taken a long time for a crack down on the region’s growing pirate problem, but finally the neighbouring Asian states have agreed on a joint patrol initiative.

However Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore only agreed to carry out joint naval patrols after the US threatened to send in Marines to quell the rampant pirates.

In April, more than 50 commercial divers from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the UK were held by pirates and stripped of valuable belongings including cash and lap top computers before being released. The ship was owned by Global Industries which runs a fleet of 20 craft servicing the oil and gas industry.

The threat of terrorists hijacking vessels to be used as suicide weapons has also become a real fear after the suicide speedboat attack on the USS Cole on 12 October 2000 and the recent attack on the Basra oil terminal in the Persian Gulf.

The Singaporean government does not feel the Straits are adequately protected and fears vessels plying the waters there will be natural targets for al-Qaeda and/or other terrorists.

Indonesian Naval chief Admiral Berard Kent Sondakh said the joint patrols would now operate in the narrow 960km waterway around the year with each country contributing five to seven corvettes.

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