The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), which represents 80 per cent of the world merchant fleet, has welcomed the outcome of an important meeting between governments to advance navigational safety in the strategically vital Malacca and Singapore Straits, where there are about 70,000 transits by ships each year, according to Exim News Service.
During a meeting last week in Singapore, of the 'Co-operative Mechanism on Safety of Navigation and Environmental Protection in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore' (which involves the littoral states of Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia), ICS expressed concern about the continuing lack of new large scale navigational charts.
ICS Marine Director, Mr John Murray, explained: "We all want to deliver safety and environmental benefits in the Straits which is a primary objective of the Marine Electronic Highway project. But these benefits simply cannot be realised unless navigational charts are based on modern and appropriate hydrographic surveys."
Encouragingly, says ICS, this deficiency was acknowledged at the meeting by the littoral states. India, moreover, one of the many observer nations present, offered the use of a survey vessel to conduct appropriate hydrographic surveys in the area. Training of personnel from Malaysia and Indonesia in hydrography has also been offered. ICS believes that this offer by India to support hydrographic surveys and the production of appropriate navigation charts may lead to real progress being made with respect to safety of navigation in the region.
At the meeting of the Co-operative Mechanism in Malaysia, ICS presented updated results of its detailed survey of safety incident reports to the maritime administrations of the littoral states.
While only a very small proportion of transits through the Straits lead to accidents or near misses, the ICS survey identified heavy shipping traffic, inappropriate speed and the loss of situational awareness as significant factors that need to be addressed. ICS also highlighted concerns about the understanding and use of navigation systems such as ECDIS, AIS and radar.
ICS therefore welcomed the many other projects now being taken forward by the Co-operative Mechanism, including the removal of wrecks in the region, the establishment of a tide, current and wind measurement system, as well as ongoing projects for the replacement and maintenance of aids to navigation and the provision of emergency towing vessels.