Warning of Malacca Strait terrorist attack.
SHIPS passing through the Strait of Malacca need to tighten up security following reports that terrorists may be considering an attack on a tanker, a circular from the Singapore Shipping Association has warned. However, the document declined to specify which group is suspected of being behind such a plan.
International shipowner grouping BIMCO said today that it was seeking details on the matter, and reiterated the need for vessels to comply with standard advice on best practice.
SSA executive director Daniel Tan stressed to Lloyd"s List that the association did not issue the original advisory but was responding to one put out by the Singapore Navy"s Information Fusion Centre.
According to the text of the SSA note, the Singapore ?has received indication a terrorist group is planning attacks on oil tankers in the Malacca Strait?. It added: ?The terrorists" intent is probably to achieve widespread publicity and showcase that it remains a viable group.?
The centre redirected calls from Lloyd"s List to Singapore"s defence ministry, which declined to comment.
But the Malaysian Coast Guard and the Indonesian authorities stepped up security in the region in response to the warning.
A Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency official told Reuters: ?The agency is aware of the alert that has been sent out and is stepping up security of the Malacca Straits.?
A Thai naval attache in Singapore told the news agency that the original warning came from Japan, which informed the International Maritime Bureau that ships in the Strait could be hijacked.
IMB anti-piracy official Noel Choong confirmed the information had come from a foreign government agency. Mr Choong said: ?It is a terror threat.?
A maritime security specialist, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the warning should be taken seriously, as the Singaporean navy is well-regarded.
However, it was his understanding that regional terror groups such as Jemaah Islamiyah currently lack the operational capability to mount any ambitious assault on a large vessel such as a VLCC. But that is not to say that such know-how can reasonably easily be acquired.
Piracy incidents in southeast Asia, once a significant headache, have much declined in recent years. In 2009, two incidents of piracy were recorded in the Straits of Malacca, the same number as in 2008.
The 900 km long Malacca and Singapore straits is shared by the littoral states of Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, and is one of the most important shipping channels in the world with up to 80% of China"s oil imports and 30% of iron ore imports passing through area.