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Piracy in the Strait of Malacca: an Age-Old Problem Whose Future Is Unclear

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The Strait of Malacca, which runs between the Malay Peninsula (Malacca) and Sumatra, is the most convenient maritime route to take between the Indian and Pacific oceans. From time immemorial, it has held tremendous significance for international trade. Even back in ancient times, ports sprang up on the shores of the strait that were visited by ships carrying goods from India and China. These ports turned into important regional centers of commerce. In the Middle Ages, the main port on the Strait of Malacca, and the central hub for regional trade, was the city of Malacca, located on the strait that bears its name and the capital of the Malacca Sultanate. In 1511, Malacca was captured by the Portuguese, who attempted to control all the shipping traffic that went through the strait. In 1641, Portuguese Malacca was taken by the Dutch, and in 1795 the British fended off the Dutch to take control. Together, the Netherlands and the British Empire ruled the Strait of Malacca for the following over 100 years. During that time, Malacca waned in importance as a transport hub and trading center, and the British colony of Singapore moved to the foreground. In 1945, Indonesia gained independence from the Netherlands, in 1957 Malaysia gained independence from Great Britain, and then in 1965 Singapore won independence from Malaysia. And now these three countries – Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore – all own the strait together, and earn profit from the stream of vessels that continuously runs through it. At present, virtually all the maritime trade between Europe, Africa, and East Asia runs through the Strait of Malacca: up to 25% of all maritime transport shipments (about 120,000 vessels per year) in the world pass through it.

It goes without saying that such an important section of the seas, which constantly has vessels with valuable cargo running through it, cannot escape the threat of pirate attacks. For many centuries, the Strait of Malacca and the coastal waters of countries in Southeast Asia adjacent to it were swarming with sea raiders. For some........

© New Eastern Outlook

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