Beijing raises highest security alert for vessels using the Malacca Strait
CHINA has raised the security level on Chinese-flagged vessels transiting the Straits of Malacca by advising shipping companies to implement Security Level 3, which is the highest state of alertness under the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code
CHINA has raised the security level on Chinese-flagged vessels transiting the Straits of Malacca by advising shipping companies to implement Security Level 3, which is the highest state of alertness under the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code.
The alert was issued on July 2 by the Ministry of Transport in a notification, according to documents seen by UK's Lloyd's List.
An increase to Security Level 3 is an exceptional measure applied only when there is credible information that a security incident is probable or imminent. The ministry did not specify the reasons behind the increased alert level.
An internal email alert from Cosco Shipping Energy Transportation suggested the threat was from Indonesian parties. The oil and gas shipping unit of state conglomerate China Cosco Shipping Group said it received information that 'a certain Indonesian organisation is preparing to attack Chinese ships when passing through the Strait of Malacca'.
About a quarter of global trade is shipped through the Strait of Malacca, one of the busiest waterways in the world. It is also a strategically important choke point for Chinese oil imports from the Middle East Gulf region.
Piracy has long been a threat to vessels plying the narrow, 900 km-long stretch of water, although the number of incidents appears to have dropped significantly in recent years.
There had been a 92 per cent decrease in piracy and sea robbery incidents in the Strait of Malacca and Singapore in 2015-2018, according to a recent report by the Information Fusion Centre, a multi-national maritime security information centre based in Singapore.
Dryad Global, a maritime security intelligence company, said in a statement: 'The raising of the threat level for Chinese-flagged vessels has been unexpected, particularly as the regional dynamics within and surrounding the Malacca Strait are stable.
'Within the region, the nature of piracy has often been low level, and has involved the boarding of small barge craft for items such as scrap metal. It would therefore be a dramatic escalation were a Chinese vessel to be targeted, and there is currently no reporting to indicate that local groups involved in piracy possess the intent or capability to employ a new MO in this manner.'
The group said the last significant incident within the region was the Johor Port dispute between Malaysia and Singapore.
'However, there are no significant geopolitical tensions which would link logically with the increased Chinese threat level,' it said. 'It is likely that China is reacting to a specific threat known only to China.'
The move by the Chinese ministry would have limited immediate impact on freight rates as the number of China-flagged ships serving international trade is relatively small, said brokerage sources.
However, rates might start to increase if the tensions heighten and more vessels are forced to make a detour.