Critical for the straits of Malacca and Singapore to remain open, safe and clean: Khaw Boon Wan

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore conducts annual ferry emergency exercises to test the readiness of various agencies in responding to ferry mishaps in the Port of Singapore. PHOTO: MARITIME AND PORT AUTHORITY OF SINGAPORE

SINGAPORE - Every year, more than 80,000 vessels pass through the straits of Malacca and Singapore, carrying a third of the world's traded goods.

One-sixth of the world's total oil supply also passes through the same waters, said Mr Khaw Boon Wan, Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Minister for Transport.

It is thus critical that these straits remain "open, safe and clean", he said at the 11th Cooperation Forum - one of the three pillars of the Cooperative Mechanism on Safety of Navigation and Environmental Protection in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore.

The forum is the main avenue for Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, and the international maritime community to address issues of common concern, exchange information and share perspectives on important issues relating to the straits.

The three countries have made good use of the forum to discuss ways to cooperate, and one noteworthy initiative is an ongoing joint hydrographic survey of the straits undertaken by these countries together with Japan, Mr Khaw said at the opening of the two-day forum at Grand Hyatt Hotel on Monday (Sept 24).

The data collected from the survey will be used to produce more up-to-date and detailed electronic navigational charts.

The project is "close to 40 per cent complete" since it was launched last year and on course to be completed by 2020.

Said Mr Khaw: "Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore have also stepped up cooperation on operational matters, and enhanced our emergency responses to incidents such as spills and ferry mishaps."

"To this end, we recently conducted a joint chemical spill exercise with Malaysia, and are working with Indonesia to complete a review of our joint ferry mishap contingency plan."

More than 100 personnel from 10 organisations took part in a recent exercise where 72 passengers had to be evacuated after the ferry was grounded by a large underwater object. PHOTO: MARITIME AND PORT AUTHORITY OF SINGAPORE

In his speech, Mr Khaw also noted the importance of anticipating and addressing future challenges.

One such challenge is to keep pace with rapid technological advancements and fully harness their benefits, he said.

Said Mr Khaw: "For example, technology can make shipping safer, through the use of sensors and other sophisticated systems on board ships. But there is still scope to eliminate navigational accidents."

In this regard, the adoption of e-navigation is an important initiative, he said.

Another challenge is to make shipping clean and sustainable.

Mr Khaw stressed that this requires the collective commitment and cooperation of all stakeholders.

"Let us stay focused on our common goal, to keep the straits of Malacca and Singapore safe and clean, and open for all users," he told about 180 participants from around 80 maritime administrations and organisations, as well as embassies in Singapore.

They included Mr Agus Purnomo, director-general of sea transportation in Indonesia's Ministry of Transportation, and Mr Baharin Abdul Hamid, director-general of Malaysia's marine department.

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