Strait of Malacca

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The Strait of Malacca connects the Pacific Ocean to the east with the Indian Ocean to the west.

Coordinates: 4°N 100°E / 4°N 100°E / 4; 100 (Strait of Malacca) The Strait of Malacca (Malay: Selat Melaka, Indonesian: Selat Malaka; Jawi: سلت ملاک) or Straits of Malacca is a narrow, 805 km (500 mi) stretch of water between the Malay Peninsula (Peninsular Malaysia) and the Indonesian island of Sumatra. It is named after the Malacca sultanate that ruled over the archipelago between 1400 and 1511.

Extent[edit]

The International Hydrographic Organization defines the limits of the Strait of Malacca as follows:[1]

On the West. A line joining Pedropunt, the Northernmost point of Sumatra (5°40′N 95°26′E / 5.667°N 95.433°E / 5.667; 95.433) and Lem Voalan the Southern extremity of Goh Puket [Phuket Island] in Siam [Thailand] (7°45′N 98°18′E / 7.750°N 98.300°E / 7.750; 98.300).
On the East. A line joining Tanjong Piai (Bulus), the Southern extremity of the Malay Peninsula (1°16′N 103°31′E / 1.267°N 103.517°E / 1.267; 103.517) and The Brothers (1°11.5′N 103°21′E / 1.1917°N 103.350°E / 1.1917; 103.350) and thence to Klein Karimoen (1°10′N 103°23.5′E / 1.167°N 103.3917°E / 1.167; 103.3917).
On the North. The Southwestern coast of the Malay Peninsula.
On the South. The Northeastern coast of Sumatra as far to the eastward as Tanjong Kedabu (1°06′N 102°58′E / 1.100°N 102.967°E / 1.100; 102.967) thence to Klein Karimoen.

Economic importance[edit]

From an economic and strategic perspective, the Strait of Malacca is one of the most important shipping lanes in the world.

The strait is the main shipping channel between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, linking major Asian economies such as India, China, Japan and South Korea. Over 60,000 (94,000?)[2] vessels pass through the strait per year,[3] carrying about one-quarter of the world's traded goods including oil, Chinese manufactures, and Indonesian coffee.[4]

About a quarter of all oil carried by sea passes through the strait, mainly from Persian Gulf suppliers to Asian markets such as China, Japan, and South Korea. In 2007, an estimated 13.7 million barrels per day (2,180,000 m3/d) were transported through the strait, increasing to an estimated 15.2 million barrels per day (2,420,000 m3/d) in 2011.[5]

The maximum size of a vessel that can make passage through the Strait is referred to as "Malaccamax". The strait is not deep enough (at 25 metres or 82 feet) to permit some of the largest ships (mostly oil tankers) to use it. A ship that exceeds Malaccamax will typically use the Lombok Strait, Makassar Strait, Sibutu Passage and Mindoro Strait instead.

At Phillips Channel close to the south of Singapore, the Strait of Malacca narrows to 2.8 km (1.5 nautical miles) wide, creating one of the world's most significant traffic choke points.[6]

Shipping hazards[edit]

Piracy has been a problem in the strait. There were about 25 attacks on vessels in 1994, 220 in 2000, and just over 150 in 2003 (one-third of the global total).[citation needed] After attacks rose again in the first half of 2004, regional navies stepped up their patrols of the area in July 2004. Subsequently, attacks on ships in the Strait of Malacca dropped, to 79 in 2005 and 50 in 2006.[7]

There are 34 shipwrecks, some dating to the 1880s, in the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS), the channel for commercial ships. These pose a collision hazard in the narrow and shallow strait.[8]

Yearly haze from the smoke of raging bush fires, limiting visibility.

Another risk is the yearly haze caused by raging bush fires in Sumatra. It can reduce visibility to 200 metres (660 ft), forcing ships to slow down in the busy strait. Ships longer than 350 metres (1,150 ft) routinely use the strait.[citation needed]

Proposals to relieve the strait[edit]

Further information: Thai Canal

Thailand has developed several plans to diminish the economic significance of the strait. The Thai government has, several times, proposed to cut a canal through the Isthmus of Kra, saving around 960 kilometres (600 mi) from the journey from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific. China has offered to cover the costs, according to a report leaked to The Washington Times in 2004. Nevertheless, and despite the support of several Thai politicians, the prohibitive financial and ecological costs suggest that such a canal will not be built.

A second alternative is to build a pipeline across the Isthmus of Kra to carry oil to ships waiting on the other side. Proponents say it would cut the cost of oil delivery to Asia by about $0.50/barrel ($3/m3). Burma has also made a similar pipeline proposal.

History[edit]

The Strait of Malacca as viewed from the city of Melaka, Malaysia. Indonesia is visible in the distance.

Early traders from Arabia, Africa, Persia, and the Southern Indian kingdoms used to reach Kedah before arriving at Guangzhou. Kedah served as a western port on the Malay Peninsula. They traded glassware, camphor, cotton goods, brocades, ivory, sandalwood, perfume, and precious stones. These traders sailed to Kedah via the monsoon winds between June and November. They returned between December and May. Kedah provided accommodations, porters, small vessels, bamboo rafts, elephants, and also tax collections for goods to be transported overland toward the eastern ports of the Malay Peninsula such as Langkasuka and Kelantan. Ships from China came to trade at these eastern trading posts and ports. Kedah and Funan were famous ports through the 6th century, before shipping began to utilize the Strait of Malacca itself as a trade route.

In the 7th century the maritime empire of Srivijaya based on Palembang, Sumatra, rose to power, and its influence expanded to the Malay peninsula and Java. The empire gained effective control on two major choke points in maritime Southeast Asia; the Strait of Malacca and the Sunda Strait. By launching a series of conquests and raids on potentially rival ports on both side of the strait, Srivijaya ensured its economic and military domination in the region lasted for about 700 years. Srivijaya gained a great benefit from the lucrative spice trade, the tributary trade system with China, and trade with Indian and Arab merchants. The Strait of Malacca became the important maritime trade route between India and China. The importance of the Strait of Malacca in global trade networks continued well into later centuries with the rise of the Malacca Sultanate in the 15th century, the Johor Sultanate, and the rise of the modern city-state of Singapore.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Limits of Oceans and Seas, 3rd edition". International Hydrographic Organization. 1953. Retrieved 7 February 2010. 
  2. ^ Aljazeera.net (English)
  3. ^ Strait of Malacca - World Oil Transit Chokepoints, Energy Information Administration, U.S. Department of Energy
  4. ^ Freeman, Donald B. (2003). The Straits of Malacca: Gateway or Gauntlet?. McGill-Queen's University Press. ISBN 0-7735-2515-7. . A book review citing this information can be found at University of Toronto Quarterly, Volume 74, Number 1, Winter 2004/5, pp. 528-530
  5. ^ World Oil Transit Chokepoints, Energy Information Administration, US Department of Energy
  6. ^ World Oil Transit Chokepoints
  7. ^ Piracy down 3rd year in row: IMB report, Journal of Commerce Online, January 23, 2007
  8. ^ 34 wrecks in sealane threaten passing ships

External links[edit]