Strait of Malacca
Coordinates: 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.
- 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 ( ) thence to Klein Karimoen.
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 94,000 vessels pass through the strait each year, carrying about one-fourth of the world's traded goods, including oil, Chinese manufactured products, and Indonesian coffee. About a quarter of all oil carried by sea passes through the Strait, mainly from Persian Gulf suppliers to Asian markets. In 2007, an estimated 13.7 million barrels were transported through the strait, increasing to an estimated 15.2 million barrels in 2011. In addition, it is also one of the world's most congested shipping choke points because it narrows to only 2.8 km (1.5 nautical miles) wide at the Phillips Channel (close to the south of Singapore).
The maximum size of a vessel that can pass through the Strait is referred to as Malaccamax. For some of the world's largest ships (mostly oil tankers), the Strait's minimum depth (25 metres or 82 feet) isn't deep enough. In addition, the next closest passageway (the Sunda Strait) is even more shallow and narrow than Malacca. Therefore, these large ships must detour several thousand miles/kilometers and use the Lombok Strait, Makassar Strait, Sibutu Passage, or Mindoro Strait instead.
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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). 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.
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.
Proposals to relieve the strait
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.
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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. He was defeated by Rajendra Chola of the Chola empire from ancient South India.
- Early history of Kedah
- Malacca Strait Bridge
- Malacca Town
- Mangroves of the Straits of Malacca
- Piracy in the Strait of Malacca
- Sultanate of Kedah
- Battle of the Malacca Strait
- "Limits of Oceans and Seas, 3rd edition" (PDF). International Hydrographic Organization. 1953. Retrieved 7 February 2010.
- Aljazeera.net (English)
- Strait of Malacca - World Oil Transit Chokepoints, Energy Information Administration, U.S. Department of Energy
- 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
- World Oil Transit Chokepoints, Energy Information Administration, US Department of Energy
- World Oil Transit Chokepoints
- Piracy down 3rd year in row: IMB report, Journal of Commerce Online, January 23, 2007
- 34 wrecks in sealane threaten passing ships
|Library resources about
Strait of Malacca
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- World oil transit chokepoints
- Maritime Security in Southeast Asia: U.S., Japanese, Regional, and Industry Strategies (National Bureau of Asian Research, November 2010)
- BBC News report on the increased security in the Straits
- "Going for the jugular" Report on the potential terrorist threat to the Straits. From the Economist, requires subscription, in the print edition June 10, 2004
- China builds up strategic sea lanes
- A report from the International Maritime Organisation on the implementation of a Straits "Marine Electronic Highway" - a series of technological measures to ensure safe and efficient use of the busy waters
- Malacca, Singapore, and Indonesia (1978) by Michael Leifer
- The Malacca Straits Research and Development Centre homepage
- Al-Jazeera: Malacca Strait nations plan air patrol
- The Strategic Importance of the Straits of Malacca for World Trade and Regional Development
- AP: Singapore warns of terror threat in Malacca Strait, 2010-03-04