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Labuan is the main island of the Malaysianmarker Federal Territory of Labuan. Labuan is best known as an offshore financial centre offering international financial and business services via Labuan IBFC since 1990 as well as a tourist destination for nearby Bruneiansmarker and scuba divers. The name Labuan derives from the Malay word labuhan meaning anchorage.


The Federal Territory of Labuan comprises Labuan Island (75 km²) and six other smaller islands (Pulau Burung, Pulau Daat, Pulau Kuraman, Pulau Papan, Pulau Rusukan Kecil, and Pulau Rusukan Besar), which have a combined total area of 92 km². The islands lie 8 km off the coast of Borneomarker, adjacent to the Malaysian state of Sabahmarker and the independent state of Brunei Darussalammarker, on the northern edge of Brunei Baymarker facing the South China Seamarker. Labuan Island is mainly flat and undulating and the highest point is only 85 meters. Over 70% of the island is still covered with vegetation. Bandar Labuanmarker, formerly known as Victoria, is the major town and port and faces Brunei Bay.


The territory of Labuan is subdivided into administrative districts:

  1. Kampung Tanjung Aru
  2. Batu Arang
  3. Batu Manikar
  4. Bandar Labuan
  5. Layang-Layangan
  6. Lubok Temiang
  7. Rancha-Rancha
  8. Kampung Tanjong Kubong
  9. Kampung Bukit Kalam
  10. Kampung Patau-Patau I & II
  11. Kampung Pohon Batu
  12. Kiamsam
  13. kampung Sungai Bedaun
  14. Kampung Sungai Pagar
  15. Kampung Sungai Labu


Labuan Island and outlying islands
Labuan was a part of the Bruneimarker Sultanate.

In the 1840s the previously-uninhabited island was proposed as a base for British operations against piracy in the South China Sea. The Sultan of Brunei ceded Labuan to Britain in 1846, and the island became a Crown Colony in 1848. The first White Rajah of Sarawakmarker, James Brooke was appointed first commander-in-chief and Governor of the territory. In 1849 the Eastern Archipelago Company became the first of many companies trying to exploit its coal deposits and establish it as a coaling station for the China trade. It later became a station for the submarine cable between Singaporemarker and Hong Kongmarker.

It was made a part of North Borneo on 1 January 1890, then on 30 October 1906 joined to the Straits Settlementsmarker.

During World War II, Labuan was occupied by Japanmarker from December 1941 to June 1945 and governed as part of the Northern Borneo military unit by the Japanese 37th Army. Labuan was renamed Maida Island (Pulau Maida, 前田島 [Maeda-shima]) after Marquis Toshinari Maeda, the first commander of Japanese forces in northern Borneo. The island was retaken by Australian forces in Operation Oboe Six, in June 1945. Labuan assumed its former name and was under British military administration (along with the rest of the Straits Settlementsmarker), then joined to British North Borneo, on 15 July 1946, which in turn became a part of Malaysiamarker as the state of Sabahmarker in 1963.

In 1984, Labuan was ceded by Sabah to the federal government and made a federal territory. In 1990, it was declared an international offshore financial centre and free trade zone.The Labuan International Business and Financial Centre (Labuan IBFC) was created as Malaysia’s only offshore financial hub on October 1990 and was operating under the name of Labuan International Offshore Financial Centre (IOFC). At the time it was established to strengthen the contribution of financial services to the Gross National Products (GNP) of Malaysia as well as to develop the island and its surrounding vicinity. The jurisdiction, supervised by the Labuan Offshore Financial Services Authority or LOFSA, offers benefits such as 3% tax on net audited results or a flat rate of Malaysian Ringgit (MYR) 20,000 to trading companies; low operational costs; liberal exchange controls; and a host of other advantages including readily available, experienced and professional service providers.

Since its inception, the jurisdiction has expanded to become a base for more than 6,500 offshore companies and more than 300 licensed financial institutions including world leading banks. Labuan IBFC is embarking on an aggressive growth strategy to become the premier international business and financial centre in the Asia Pacific region.

Labuan's business focus is on five core areas: offshore holding companies, captive insurance, Shariah-compliant Islamic Finance structures, public and private funds and wealth management. Labuan IBFC’s position is further enhanced by the launch of the Malaysian International Islamic Finance Centre initiative in August 2006.



Defence is the responsibility of the federal government, with naval patrol vessels, a garrison and an air detachment based on the island. The vigilance of the local Coast Guard and Customs and Excise contribute to the maintenance of Labuan's reputation and status as an international offshore financial centre and free trade zone.


The ethnic composition in 2000 in Labuan was: Malay/Bumiputra mainly Brunei Malay and Kedayan(60,549 or 77.92%), Ethnic Chinese (12,019 or 15.47%), Ethnic Indian (989 or 1.28%), Other (4,143 or 5.33%).

Attractions and places of interest

There are several attractions and places of interest on Labuan. The military cemetery contains various war graves and memorials to the fallen of World War II. This includes British, Australian, Indian, Sarawakian, Bruneian, North Borneo and Empire troops. There is also a memorial celebrating the surrender of the Japanese to the Australian Forces in 1945. There are also remnants of Labuan's history as a Royal Navy Coaling station, including 'the chimney', a well known local landmark. There is also a Labuan Maritime Museum.

Labuan is also the base for diving on four popular wreck dives: the Cement wreck, the American wreck, the Australian wreck and the Blue Water wreck.

Labuan has many schools. However, it has only one international school, Labuan International School. Other places of interest include the Labuan International Sea Sport Complex. Newly proposed is the Marina centre and Labuan Square project which are expected to be completed in next two years from 2008.

Labuan's own institution of higher education is Universiti Malaysia Sabah Labuan International Campus,, a branch of Universiti Malaysia Sabah in Sepanggar Bay, Kota Kinabalumarker.

Postage stamps and postal history

1885 2c, used in 1891

A post office was operating in Labuan by 1864, and used a circular date stamp as postmark. The postage stamps of Indiamarker and Hong Kongmarker were used on some mail, but they were probably carried there by individuals, instead of being on sale in Labuan. Mail was routed through Singapore. From 1867 Labuan officially used the postage stamps of the Straits Settlements, then issued its own beginning in May 1879.

The first stamps of Labuan depict the usual profile of Queen Victoria, but are unusual for being inscribed in Arabic and Chinese scripts in addition to "LABUAN POSTAGE". Perennial shortages necessitated a variety of surcharges in between the several reprints and colour changes of the 1880s. The original stamps were engraved, but the last of the design, in April 1894, were done by lithography.

Beginning in May 1894, the designs of North Borneo were printed in different colours, with "LABUAN" either engraved into the vignette or overprinted. On 24 September 1896, the 50th anniversary of the cession was marked by overprinting "1846 / JUBILEE / 1896" on the overprinted North Borneo designs. Additional overprints appeared through the 1890s. In 1899 many types were surcharged with a value of 4 cents.

A last Labuan-only design came out in 1902, depicting a crown and inscribed "LABUAN COLONY". After incorporation into the Straits Settlements in 1906, Labuan ceased issuing its own stamps, although they remained valid for some time. Many of the remainders were cancelled to order for sale to collectors, and are now worth only pennies; genuine postal uses are worth much more.


  • The history of Labuan Island (Victoria Island) (1996) Stephen R. Evans, Abdul Rahman Zainal and Rod Wong Khet Ngee. Singapore: Calendar Print



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