UN-backed project to boost safety, security in vital Malacca shipping lane

UN-backed project to boost safety, security in vital Malacca shipping lane

The navigational safety, security and environmental protection of the Straits of Malacca, one of the world’s most important shipping lanes in a region rife with piracy and fears of terrorism, are set to be enhanced by the first-ever type of cooperative mechanism envisaged by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The voluntary “Co-operative Mechanism,” cemented at a meeting convened by the UN International Maritime Organization (IMO) and hosted by Singapore will enable the three littoral States (Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore), user States and the shipping industry to exchange views, jointly undertake projects and make monetary contributions.

“I view the Co-operative Mechanism as a milestone breakthrough in the efforts of all parties in enhancing safety and environmental protection through the Straits,” IMO Secretary-General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos said.

At the same time, he said the mechanism’s launch should not be viewed as the end of the road. “Rather, we should view it as an opportunity to maintain, even strengthen, the already established channel of communication among all parties concerned, thus facilitating a meaningful dialogue for the accomplishment of all objectives set.”

Fears of terrorism at sea have risen in recent years. As for piracy, the IMO reported three such acts in the Straits of Malacca for the first quarter of 2007, down from five in the previous quarter. In the surrounding Indian Ocean there were 17 incidents, up from 14.

The Co-operative Mechanism consists of three components: a forum for regular dialogue; a committee to coordinate and manage specific projects; and a fund to receive and manage financial contributions.

The Singapore meeting saw widespread support for projects to enhance safety and environmental protection, including responding to incidents involving hazardous and noxious substances, equipping small ships with navigational transponders and establishing a tide, current and wind measurement system.

Other projects include replacement and maintenance of navigational aids damaged by the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004.