Sea Transportation: June 27, 2005


Piracy, or the threat of it, in the Malacca and Singapore Straits, has caused Malaysia and Singapore to threaten the summary arrest of any unauthorized armed boats found in these crowded waters. In addition, both nations are allowing private security companies to provide armed escorts for ships moving through the straits. At least six companies now provide these security guards, who are largely former or retired military or police. These men have their own boats, which are clearly marked, and recognized by the local navies, police and coast guard. The idea here is that the more security ships out there the better. Singapore has also recruited and trained a special force of armed sailors who are put aboard some merchant ships, to provide extra protection. 

About 130 merchant ships a day pass through the Malacca Straits, most of them very large, very valuable ships. With the arrest on sight order, sailors on merchant ships have an incentive to report any boats, especially speedboats, that are carrying armed men. Its believed that if theres enough pressure on the pirates, they will go back to robbing local fishermen. However, the pirates can get hundreds of times more loot off robbing on cargo ship or tanker, than from a fishing boat. So the temptation is always there. But what worries the local security authorities most is terrorists taking over a large ship and trying to do some major mischief with it. The increased security is directed at making terrorist operations much more difficult.


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