Strait of Malacca is a narrow, 805 km (500
mile) stretch of water between Peninsular Malaysia (West Malaysia) and the
Indonesian island of Sumatra.
named after the Empire of Melaka that ruled
over the archipelago between 1414 to 1511.
The Strait of Malacca connects the
Pacific Ocean to the east with the Indian Ocean to the west.
economic and strategic perspective the Strait
of Malacca is one of
the most important shipping lanes in the world.
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 50,000 (94,000?) vessels pass through
the strait per year, carrying about one-quarter of the world's
traded goods including oil, Chinese manufactures, and Indonesian
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 2006, an estimated were
transported through the strait.
The maximum size of a vessel that can make passage through the
Strait is referred to as Malaccamax
strait is not deep enough (at 25 metres or 82 feet) to permit some
of the largest ships (mostly oil
) to use it. A ship that exceeds Malaccamax will typically
use the Lombok
Passage and Mindoro Strait instead. At Phillips
Channel near 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.
in the strait has risen in recent
years. There were about 25 attacks on vessels in 1994, 220 in 2000,
and just over 150 in 2003 (one-third of the global total).
attacks rose again in the first half of 2004, the Malaysian, Indonesian and Singaporean navies stepped up their patrols of the area in July
Subsequently, attacks on ships in the Strait of
Malacca dropped, to 79 in 2005 and 50 in 2006.
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.
risk is the yearly haze caused by raging bush
fires in Sumatra.
can reduce visibility to , forcing ships to slow down in the busy
strait. Ships longer
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 over the course of its history several times proposed to
canal through the Isthmus of Kra, saving around from the journey from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific.
would also cut Thailand in two, further isolating the separatist
Muslim majority in Pattani. China has offered
to cover the costs, according to a report leaked to The Washington Times in
Nevertheless, and despite the support of several Thai
politicians, the prohibitive financial and ecological costs suggest
that no such canal will go ahead.
A second alternative is to build a pipeline
across the isthmus to carry oil
to ships waiting on the other side. Proponents say it would cut the
cost of oil delivery to Asia
). Myanmar has also made a similar pipeline proposal.
There is also a proposal to pipe crude oil from the Middle East to
, China. Building began in October
Early sea routes
traders from Egypt, Rome, Arabia, Africa, Turkey, Persia, and South
Indian kingdoms(cholas) used to reach the Malaysian state
of Kedah before
arriving at Guangzhou.
They traded glassware, camphor, cotton
goods, brocades, ivory, sandalwood, perfumes and precious stones.
Kedah served as a western port on the Malay Peninsula
. 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 over land
toward the eastern states of the Malay Peninsula like 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