Home World Ships increasingly risk legal actions in Malacca and Singapore region

Ships increasingly risk legal actions in Malacca and Singapore region

The waters in and around the Straits of Malacca and Singapore can pose various risks to ships, one of which is conducting activities outside designated areas, if the ship is not simply transiting continuously and expeditiously.

The Straits of Malacca and Singapore and associated waters are sometimes characterized by overlapping jurisdictions (Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia) and rigorous enforcement by those jurisdictions of the plethora of national regulations governing the conduct of operations in the area.

For example, it has come to our notice that ships in Indonesian territorial waters, which have been drifting, anchored outside designated anchorages, or have been conducting ship to ship (STS) operations either at anchor or underway have been intercepted by Indonesian authorities and severely sanctioned (ships detained, seafarers arrested and/or fined).

Enforcement sanctions are sometimes perceived by shipowners as excessive and in certain cases feel almost like blackmailing. Regardless, coastal states are entitled to regulate maritime activities in their territorial waters and enforce the law. Ships’ rights are limited to the conduct of innocent passage and/or transit passage, which in general terms mean that the transit shall be conducted continuously and expeditiously without stopping or anchoring unless safe navigation warrants such stopping/anchoring or when required by force majeure or by distress.

Therefore, it is suggested that ships consider the following advice before engaging in any activities involving slowing down, stopping / drifting, anchoring, STS or interfacing with small crafts for transfer of persons /goods either underway or while at anchor.

Advice regarding operations in Straits of Malacca and Singapore and associated waters

When transiting through the Straits of Malacca and Singapore and associated waters, members are advised as follows (the detailed provisions can be found in the legal references):

  1. If possible, avoid operations other than innocent passage and transit
  2. Double check in whose waters (Singapore, Malaysia or Indonesia) the activity is planned Avoid areas of overlapping jurisdiction.
  3. Make sure to have enough wiggle room for the ship g. to drift without infringing on other territorial waters. In case this cannot be avoided, permissions from the other country should also be obtained.
  4. Notify and obtain permission from the appropriate authorities where any operation such as anchoring, storing, crew change, major ship maintenance or any kind of STS transfer is going to be
  5. Ships should only anchor in the anchorages designated for the purpose by the respective country unless prior permission has been obtained in anchoring outside these
  6. Ship should keep their Automatic Identification System (AIS) operational throughout the If a compelling need arises to switch off the AIS, the coastal states in the region should informed immediately.

Source: BIMCO

Previous articlePanama Canal increases maximum draught to 14.33 m for neo-panamax locks
Next articleStories from the Sea: How RightShip’s Safety Score will drive proactive change