The Endangered Global TradeModern Piracy and Maritime Terrorism

Posted in Other | 15-Mar-05 | Author: Joerg Eschenfelder

Tug-boats are a favored target of pirates in the Malacca Straits.
Tug-boats are a favored target of pirates in the Malacca Straits.
The global trade depends on free and secure sea-lines which are endangered by pirates and terrorists. This article enlightens the situation and makes some suggestions what can be done to secure the sea-lines.

1 The Attack

The voice of the TV-commentator is cracking. The incoming live-pictures are horrifying. All along the Strait of Malacca three burning oil-tankers are blocking the whole sea-way. Oil is floating into the blue sea. Near the port of Singapore containers on two ships have exploded. The video-tapes of the explosions are shown again and again. Rumors are going round that radioactive material and biological substances have been set free. Pale and shocked experts speak of »dirty bombs« which are easy to prepare. And nobody can evaluate their danger. The Lion-city and hub of global trade is shocked and unnaturally calm. Firefighters, policemen, soldiers are all over the city. Men looking like astronauts on their walk on the moon are searching the port and the city for radioactivity and biological and chemical substances.

Some captains are in panic. They are trying to turn their ships like a headless chicken causing accidents and additional damage. The fear of further attacks forced authorities all around the world to close their sea-ways and canals. All around the world shipping comes to a halt.

The stock exchanges are in chaos. The rates are falling. No end is in sight. The European and American stock exchanges declare they will not open. The oil price reaches a new, incredible level. Nobody can predict the further consequences.

All kinds of experts are breathless. They only know what everybody can see on the screens: the energy supply for Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and the energy hungry China has stopped. The world trade has stopped. Sensible supply chains have been hit. Companies all around the globe will have to slow down their production in the coming days. And it will take weeks before they get again the oil they need. But even then, so the commentators, the energy prices will stay high. The insurances will rise. So the overall costs will reach a new peak. Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and China will face an economic slowdown if not a downturn and recession — and with them the hole global economy.

Suddenly the experts are cut off and the TV-stations switch to the same video-tape: Al-Qaeda is celebrating its triumph. The officials are praising their heroes, their technicians and their suicide bombers who drove their speedboats into the huge and crawling oil-tanker; they are praising their seafarer who detonated the bombs ...

A horrifying scenario. A scenario worth a best-selling thriller and a Hollywood-blockbuster. A sensationalised scenario which bases on existing and captured plans of Al Nasheri. Although there are at the moment no plans known that terrorist groups are planning such an attack, it is worth thinking about the possible consequences of such a scenario which could hit the global trade. And by the way can we afford it — in the light of 9/11 — to reject any scenario as unthinkable and implausible?

2 The Highly Vulnerable Global Trade

The global trade is endangered. Piracy and maritime terrorism are an often underestimated threat. The trade on the sea, the global waterways and the few mega-ports are at the moment the most vulnerable flank of the global trade, of the global economy, and of the global welfare.

2.1 Economical vulnerability

Three-quarters of the world’s surface are covered by water. And roughly 80 per cent of the global trade is shipped by sea and laden on 50 000 large and many more small ships. 80 million barrels of oil are consumed daily. 60 per cent of the world’s oil is shipped by approximately 4 000 slow and cumbersome tankers.

The global economy depends on the free and undisturbed flow of goods and energy resources. And especially the most dynamic economical region in the world—Asia—is dependent on this supply chain. The combined GDPs of China, India and Japan make already half of the GDP of the United States in nominal terms. And the CIA’s long term growth model forecasts that in 2015 the combined GDPs of China, India and Japan will surpass that of the United States and the European Union. Goldman Sachs projects that by roughly another 35 years the largest economies in the world will be China, the United States and India, with Japan at a distant forth.

World Security Network Editor South East Asia Joerg Eschenfelder reports from Singapore about maritime terrorism, piracy and the endangered global…
World Security Network Editor South East Asia Joerg Eschenfelder reports from Singapore about maritime terrorism, piracy and the endangered global trade.
No wonder that the sea-borne trade is growing and will be further growing— mainly in the Asian region. China’s trade expansion is outstanding and broad based, with trade rising one third between 2000 and 2002 even as the world trade stagnated. And the trade is likely to increase even further as a result of increasing trade flows and energy demands in Asia. According to Lloyd’s list bulletin, new orders for 200 carriers of liquified natural gas (LNG) will be required to satisfy the growth in demand during the next 15 years.

Currently Asia uses as much energy as the United States. But in 15 years the region will have the same consumption as North America and Western Europe combined. And the region depends on energy from outside the region like the Middle East. Japan—still the second largest economy worldwide—for example has to import all its oil. China imports one third of its oil. 60 per cent from the Persian Gulf and China has no significant strategic oil reserve. It is building one up. This will be completed by the end of 2005 with the capacity of 14 days of imported oil. India imports 70 per cent of its crude oil. More than 60 per cent from the Middle East and is currently also building a strategic oil reserve which will be completed by end of 2007. Japan in comparison has a strategic oil reserve of 160 days and together with commercial oil reserves for about six months.

Every disruption—especially if they are not only due to some accidents—can have severe consequences. Tight supply chains would be disrupted, the energy would be missing. Production would have to slow down or to be stopped. Therefore: Secure sea-lines are important and will become even more important for the global trade and the development of the whole region.

2.2 A Handful Bottlenecks

And the free flow of all the goods and energy resources is highly vulnerable. Three quarters of the global maritime trade and nearly half of the oil supply and even the growing trade in LNG pass through a handful of bottlenecks which are very narrow, easy to be closed and are forcing the ships to reduce their speed drastically resulting in highly vulnerable targets:

Strait of Hormuz

leading out of the Persian Gulf to the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean, is at its narrowest point only 1.5 miles wide. 15 million barrels of oil a day pass this checkpoint which was under serve attack between 1984 and 1987 until the US intervened militarily;

Bab el-Mandab passage

from the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden to the Red Sea is also just 1.5 miles wide at its narrowest point and sees daily 3.3 million barrels oil passing;

Bosporus

connecting the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, is at some points less than a mile wide and used by 50 000 ships a year, ten per cent of them carrying Russian and Caspian oil;

Suez Canal

linking the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, carries around 1.3 million barrels of oil per day;

Reported attacks during 2004 in Caribbean, South and Central America
Reported attacks during 2004 in Caribbean, South and Central America
Panama Canal

connecting the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans;

and last but not least

Malacca and Singapore Straits

linking the Indian and the Pacific Ocean via the Andaman Sea and the South China Sea.

The Malacca and Singapore Straits is the busiest strait in the world and a key-checkpoint for the global trade. The 500 mile long corridor is the main sea-line in East Asia. About 600 ships use it daily, carrying one-quarter to one-third of the world trade, half of all East Asia’s oil imports and two thirds of the global LNG-shipments. One third of the world’s trade passes through the Straits. 80 per cent of the oil imported by Japan, South Korea and China comes from the Persian Gulf and transits through the Straits.

3 Pirates and Terrorists

These strategic checkpoints have one in common: their huge traffic forces the ships to manoeuvre on a very small space and to slow down. So they are becoming highly vulnerable targets for pirates and terrorist.

3.1 Pirates get more deadly

The main concern at the moment is »piracy«. To be accurate »piracy« is only taking place on high seas in international waters and is a case of international law. As soon as attacks take place in areas under the territorial sovereignty of littoral states they are crimes under the laws of the littoral state and it is more accurate to call them »armed robbery against ships«. This distinction is important for the use of police power against the »pirates«. The rules of »piracy« under international law allow any state to arrest pirates, seize the pirate vessel, and prosecute them in the seizing state’s courts. If it is a case of »armed robbery« no external state has the right to exercise police power in this territory. No external state can conduct patrols or make arrests in another state’s territorial sea or archipelagic waters unless it has obtained consent.

This distinction is important when it comes to fighting piracy and maritime terrorism. The attacked seafarer and the ship owners only see »pirates« regardless where they are attacked. They face modern weapons and the same threat: robbery, hostage taking and stealing and the loss of time, human capital, trade, and equipment.

In the past decade the attacks tripled starting in 1994 with 90 incidents and reaching the highest level in modern history. In total 445 attacks have been reported in 2003 to the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) Piracy Reporting Centre. This was an increase of 20 per cent within one year.

Last year the situation was ambivalent. On one side the number of attacks — according to the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre — was just 325 compared to 445 in 2003. That is a fall of 23 per cent. On the other side the attacks have been much more ruthless. 30 crew members were murdered in 2004. The year before 21 lost their lives due to attacks. 1994 there were no fatalities. In 1994 there were 17 instances in which firearms were used; this rose to 87 last year.

The hijackings of tugs and barges and the kidnapping of crew members were on the rise. Hostages taken by pirates increased more than tenfold from 11 in 1994 to 148 last year.

Fighting the pirates and terrorists requires modern equipment and highly trained personnal.
Fighting the pirates and terrorists requires modern equipment and highly trained personnal.
The hotspot was again Southeast Asia with more than 50 per cent of all reported incidents happening here. 45 attacks have been reported in the Malacca and Singapore Straits. That was 14 per cent of all incidents in 2004. The most dangerous place are the waters around Indonesia. 93 incidents have been reported in 2004. While this is down from 121 in 2003, it still accounts for more than one quarter of piratical attacks worldwide. Or put it the other way: one out of four incidents happens in the waters around Indonesia. Attacks in Nigerian waters were down to 28 from 39 in 2003. However, offshore Nigeria had still the third highest number of incidents and was regarded as the most dangerous area in Africa.

Asia’s most dangerous port was Tanjung Priok in Indonesia with 17 attacks, followed by the Indonesian major oil port Balikpapan that saw 13 attacks. But there have also been some significant drops of attacks in the Philippines, Vietnam, Bangladesh, India, the Caribbean and in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. Bangladesh saw some of the best improvement with only 17 attacks compared to 58 in 2003.

During February and March 2003 marauders armed with assault rifles attacked three chemicals tankers in the Malacca Strait. In August 2003 a fully laden oil tanker was attacked 19 km from Port Klang in Malaysia. In the first nine month of the last year 111 attacks including kidnaps for ransom in the Malacca Strait, Singapore Straits and Malaysian and Indonesian waters have been reported to the IMB. Since May at least 12 sailors have been taken hostage in seven attacks in the Malacca Strait. This was the highest kidnapping rate since the IMB was first notified in 2001 of hostages being taken in the straits. But many attacks are not reported because the owner fear that their insurance rates would rise.

And the situation is even worse. The military style operations to hold crews for ransom has increased. Coordinated attacks done by well-trained and well- equipped personnel indicate a organizational sophistication and the activity of crime syndicates. On the other side is a weak law enforcement—for example on the Indonesian side. The Indonesian navy and marine police lack adequate equipment and also seem sometimes to be involved themselves in maritime crime.

3.2 The Tsunami impact

Nobody can say for sure which impact the tsunami on December 26 had for the pirates and the terrorists. The tsunami hit mainly the northern part of the Indonesian island Sumatra and destroyed the province Aceh with its capital Banda Aceh.

It is not known if the infrastructure of pirates or terrorists was hit and destroyed. But it is well known that the Indonesian military in the region was badly hit by the tsunami. They lost a lot of soldiers and material and have been temporary inoperable. This could also have happened to the GAM, pirates and—if there have been—terrorists in the region.

The attack rates have dropped after the tsunami. In the weeks after the tsunami there has been no pirate activity in the Malacca Straits. But this was just a short time-out. In February the ICC reported again an attack in the Malacca Straits. So it has to be assumed, that the attacks will pick up again, espaciallly if the reconstruction efforts are not quick or comprehensive enough and thus make piracy a viable form of raising funds.

3.3 Maritime Terrorism

Piracy is one problem. But the sea-born terrorism is the greater challenge. Al- Qaeda (AQ) has clearly declared that they want to disturb the global economy. And what better target could they find than the sea lines? The world trade depends on a handful of hub ports as high volume trade centres. Therefore hub ports are attractive targets as attacks on them will cause major shocks to the world’s trading system. A terrorist attack by sea? Impossible? A delusion? Not at all.

3.3.1 Hotspot Asia

This is a credible threat—especially to Asia. Many of the world’s biggest ports are in East Asia: Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Yantian, Kaohsiung, Kobe, Tokyo, Yokohama, Pusan, Laem Chabang.

And Southeast Asia is the second front for terrorism. More than 100 000 terrorism suspects are at large worldwide. About one third are posing an active threat to security including thousands in South-east Asia. In South-east Asia around 20 000 militants pose security threats of varying levels. The AQ-linked Jemaah Islamiyah (JL) is divided in four major groups in Lamongan (East Java), Semarang (Central Java), Banten (West Java) and the Sulawesi-Poso area.

3.3.2 Recent Attacks

Reported attacks during 2004 in S E Asia, Indian Sub Cont and Far East
Reported attacks during 2004 in S E Asia, Indian Sub Cont and Far East
And the terrorist groups all over the world have proven their ability to launch attacks on sea:

January 2000

The USS The Sullivans was a target of Al-Qaeda in the Port of Aden, Yemen, but it failed because the suicide boat was overloaded with explosives;

October 2000

Suicide bombers struck the destroyer USS Cole in the Port of Aden, Yemen, killed 17 US soldiers and wounded 40. One of the key suspects of the USS Cole bombing, Attash, met the two hijackers who were on the plane that crashed into the US DoD in Kuala Lumpur in January 2002;

October 2002

The French oil tanker Limburg was attacked in the Gulf of Aden. The Limburg was chartered by the Malaysian state petroleum company Petronas at the time of the attack;

February 2004

The Abu Sayaf-Group attacked a ferry causing 100 deaths.

These are just a few examples of maritime terrorism. But other terror-groups like the PLO or the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have also shown their ability to launch attacks on the sea.

With rising security standards at airports and on airplanes all over the world sea attacks are becoming more and more attractive. Though there is at the moment no proven contact between pirates and terrorists the threat of co-operation exists: Pirates are an actual growing threat and terrorists could use the same targets. Pirates are well-trained, well-equipped and well-organized. The terrorists could be interested in learning from them. But not just for robbery and hostage taking to get fresh money for operations but worse for destroying sea-lines, the environment and ports. Causing damage to the world economy. In Lloyd’s list, First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral Sir Alan West, has warned that Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups are plotting to launch attacks on merchant shipping. He also said that sea-borne terrorism could potentially cripple global trade and have grave knock-on effects on developed economies.

And at the moment it would be much easier to achieve this goal by sea than by air. There are nearly no security measures. The existing system of ship registration is anything except inspiring confidence. A registry of the crew is missing. Nobody definitely knows who owns which ship, where they are at the moment, where they are heading, what and who is on board.

3.3.3 Modi operandi and existing plans

But how could the terrorists attack? There are several modi operandi possible:

  1. turning hijacked container ships into Trojan horses with dirty bombs (detonating conventional explosives to disperse nuclear material);
  2. hijacking of ammonium nitrate carriers, LPG and LNG carriers, and turning them into floating bombs;

and

  1. sinking of merchant ships closing a sea-line, e.g. the Malacca and Singapore Straits.

And Al-Qaeda already has some plans for sea-born terrorism. Captured plans of Al-Nasheri, AQ’s former chief of naval operations include for example:

  1. the use of Zodiac type speedboats loaded with explosives to attack U.S. warships and other targets;
  2. the use of medium-sized ships that could be blown up near other vessels, including passenger liners if warships became to difficult to approach;
  3. the use of private commercial planes that could be loaded with explosives and used as suicide bombs;

and

  1. the training of underwater demolition teams to attack vessels.

But there have been other plans to attack ships in Asia: The 9-11 commission revealed that simultaneous operations had been intended for Southeast Asia, probably using Malaysia as a base, but this was cancelled because Bin Ladin decided that it was too difficult to coordinate with the US-part. In September 2001 a JL cell was broken up in Singapore. This group had planned to attack US warships in or close to Singapore. Malaysian-based terrorists also planned to strike visiting American naval ships. In Afghanistan Al-Qaeda tapes showing the Malaysian marine police patrolling the Malacca Straits have been recovered. In December 2001 a JL plan to attack US warships proceeding out of ESS from Sembawang Wharves with explosive laden small boats has been uncovered.

3.4 Disastrous consequences

Heavy traffic in a few choke points turn container ships to highly vulnerable targets.
Heavy traffic in a few choke points turn container ships to highly vulnerable targets.
The consequences of a successful attack could be disastrous. It is estimated that the closure of the port of Singapore alone could easily exceed 200 USD billion a year. In comparison the closure of ports in the Western Seaboard of US due to industrial action in October 2002 cost one USD billion a day. And the re-routing of merchant ships in case of a closing of the Malacca Strait is estimated to mean two more days on the sea and a cost of 8 billion USD per year (based on 1993 sea-borne flows). And insurance rates would shoot up. The environment could be contaminated. And worst the trust in the free trade could be badly damaged or destroyed with severe consequences for the global trade and further development of the Asian region.

Even without any major attack the costs are rising. In the Malacca Strait for example tug boats are more often targets of pirates. Ship-owners pay ransom to free their seafarers, they conceal the incidents from the insurance companies and the IMB, and they hire escorts for their tugboats causing additional costs of 5 000 USD a month.

To get the picture right: The »pirate« attacks are a problem. But the reported incidents are still less than 1 per cent of the traffic passing the Malacca and Singapore Straits annually. There are also captured plans of terrorist groups and it is known how they would operate. But at the moment it seems that attacks on the sea are not on the agenda of any group. So is may seem to be correct to classify them as a »high impact but low probability scenario«.

But nevertheless the threat exists and has to be countered. And if there is due to the tsunami at the moment a breather, this moment should be used to fight pirates and maritime terrorism.

4 What to do?

What has to be done to fight piracy, sea-borne armed robbery and maritime terrorism?

4.1 Inter-state Cooperation

First of all an increased inter-state cooperation makes the resolution of the challenges more likely and thus increases maritime security. Only when all countries are aware of the problem and willing to fight it the battle can be won. But it lies in the nature of the challenge that no state can solve the problem alone. The countries have to work together.

Southeast Asia appears to be gearing towards greater political and economical integration with constant dialogues and summits held to discuss regional issues of concern. Broad based cooperations are seen in the political, economic and military arenas. For examples the ARF and ASEAN+3 in the political arena, the growing numbers of bilateral Free Trade Agreements (FTA) in the economic arena, and the large series of bilateral military exercises held in the region. We may also be seeing the beginning of an ASEAN Economic Community and ASEAN Security Community which will further strengthen the dialogue process.

4.2 Patroling the Waterways

The next logical step is to increase the presence of maritime security forces in the regions like it was successfully done by the US between 1984 and 1987 in the Strait of Hormuz. The same step was taken by the littoral states of the hotspot of piracy, armed robbery at sea and—potentially—of maritime terrorism: the Malacca and Singapore Straits. On 20th July 2004 seven Indonesian, five Malaysian, and five Singaporean warships started their year-round coordinated patrol of the Straits, called MALSINDO.

At first sight this is a great success and progress in the right direction. The pirates reduced their attacks in the patrolled region and moved to the northern end of the Malacca Strait. But looking behind the scene it is also an example how difficult it is and remains to be to fight against pirates and potential terrorists.

Reported attacks during 2004 in Africa
Reported attacks during 2004 in Africa
First, the patrol is from the Indonesian and Malaysian point of view mainly an action to keep the US navy out of their waters. In late 2001 and early 2002 the US showed their increasing concern over potential threats in the region when they collaborated with the Indian navy to protect US merchant shipping at the northern end of the Malacca Strait. In early 2004 Admiral Thomas B. Fargo, commander-in-chief of US Pacific Command, declared, that the United States were formulating a Regional Maritime Security Initiative (RMSI) to combat piracy, maritime terrorism and sea-trafficking in people and narcotics. He also made clear that the United States intended to deploy US Marines and special forces to interdict maritime threats. The Muslim dominated nations Malaysia and Indonesia declared, that they do not want to have the US Navy in their waters. This might be a provocation to terrorist and therefore be counterproductive. So they agreed to coordinated but not joint maritime patrols.

This is the second weakness: MALSINDO is just a coordinated patrol with all the legal and political difficulties remaining. The vessels patrol only their own territorial waters. It is not clear whether it includes a general _right of hot pursuit_ into neighbouring states’ waters. So it seems at the moment to work mainly on the level of intensified information sharing.

A third weakness is the equipment. The Indonesian navy is ageing and not fully equipped to patrol their vast coastline and the 17 000 islands. Only one-third of their roughly 120 vessels are seaworthy.

This leads to the greatest challenge in the fight against piracy and maritime terrorism: the lack of political will and the necessity of high pressure to keep Indonesia and Malaysia moving. Though Singapore is really concerned of piracy and maritime terrorism and wishes to secure the sea-lines it cannot act alone and it cannot force the other states in the region to act in the same way. This pressure has to come from the United States. But despite this Indonesia remains the weakest component and the pressure has to be maintained to keep the Muslim-dominated nation to fulfil its part.

4.3 Is that enough?

Since July the littoral states of the Malacca and Singapore Straits are patrolling their waterways in a year-round coordinated way. The politicians tend to speak of a success which it may be—from the point of view of a politician and a diplomat. In this perspective it is really a success to get the states acting commonly. However a lot of lessons for MALSINDO remain to be learnt and to be resolved. Because the actual numbers of incidents prove that there are still a lot more things to do to make the passage really safe. Between May and October at least 12 sailors have been taken hostage in seven attacks in the Malacca Strait. This was the highest kidnapping rate since the IMB was first notified in 2001 of hostages being taken in the straits.

4.3.1 Lessons of MALSINDO

All in all MALSINDO is the first step in the right direction but many steps have to follow to make this sea-line safe. So what can be learnt and what has to be done?

Broaden the patrols

Experts estimate that 20 to 30 instead of the actual 17 vessels are necessary to have a full scale control of the Malacca Strait;

Legal issues

questions about the right of the hot pursuit have to be clarified;

Burden sharing

At the moment only Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore pay the additional costs of the new patrol. Under International Law the Littoral States have the responsibility to keep their waters safe and secure. But China, Korea, Taiwan, Japan, and the USA benefit also from a more secure Malacca Strait. So it seems to be reasonable that they share the burden;

Information centre

In November 2004 16 Asian nations agreed to establish in Singapore an information-sharing centre and to exchange the intelligence on pirate hiding places and outlets for stolen goods.

Navy exercises

Fighting attacks of pirates and terrorists have to become part of the drill like it was done for the first time in the annual drill by the air and naval forces of the Five Power Defence Arrangement in August 2004 in the South China Sea;

Modernizing of the navies

fighting pirates and terrorist is another task than fighting other navies. So the new tasks needs new equipment and in some cases navies in general need to be made operable like it is the case with Indonesia and Malaysia.

4.3.2 Further actions

Patrolling the Malacca Straits is only one way to discourage pirates.
Patrolling the Malacca Straits is only one way to discourage pirates.
Despite all this further actions remain to be done to get a really safe and secure global trade on the sea-lines. First of all: only a ship can guarantee its own security. So several actions can be done on the vessel-level to defend attacks:

seafarer-training

The crews have to be trained to recognize and fight pirates and terrorists. This was done for the first time in 2004 by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) during the training of mariners in ship navigation and pollution control. The participants were trained how to identify a rough vessel, in the tactics pirates use, in warning signs and how to react;

position trackers

secure vessels and cargo with hidden position trackers;

cargo scanning

at ports to make sure that no dirty bombs get the chance to reach the ports and that it is always known what is laden on the ships;

registration of ships and sailors

with the lax regulations on ship registration and hiring of crew members even terrorist organizations can own ships, and easily infiltrate the crews on board with their own members;

armed security teams

could escort the vessels on board as it will be done in the port of Singapore to keep an eye out for danger signs.

Yet there remain some more »political« issues which could help to prevent successful piracy and maritime terrorism:

fight proliferation

without nuclear, chemical and biological material »dirty bombs« cannot be build;

fighting pirates and terrorists on land

pirates and terrorists need bases on land, places they can hide, maintain their boats, store their goods, eat and sleep. This infrastructure has to be destroyed even as the ideological backbone;

alternative routes

Projects have to be designed and realised which help to bypass the dangerous checkpoints like building strategic oil reserves, building and expanding of pipelines though these actions will rise new security concerns and maybe the resistance of affected ports. Example given, creating a land bridge for oil across the Isthmus of Kra in Thailand would cut more than 600 miles of shipping distance through the Malacca and Singapore Straits and would affect the port of Singapore;

international strategy

In the long run only a concerted international strategy how to protect key waterways such as the Malacca Strait will help. This strategy must be formulated by the littoral states, the United States, Japan, China and India together with global organizations like the UN. Only this multilateral approach will help to fight the threat over a very long time.

5 Conclusion

The 21st century is going to be an Asia-Pacific century, driven by the enormous economic growth of China, India, Japan and the United States. Economical and maritime power is shifting and will be further shifting to Asia. But this development depends on a peaceful political development within the countries, a peaceful way of resolving the existing conflicts in the region and an undisturbed trade by sea.

Attacks—even successful—on oil tankers and cargo ships could be disastrous. They could disturb the supply chain, undermine the trust in the security of the region and their further development. And with this it could harm the further development of the global economy.

There are a lot of actions which could be taken to make the sea-lines more secure. But in the end everything depends on one: the political will to see the dangers and to fight piracy and maritime terrorism. Without this will everything will be nothing else than a toothless tiger. If the will exists all lessons can be learnt and the fight against the terrorism can finally be won.

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