Strait of Malacca

The Strait of Malacca (Malay: Selat Melaka, Indonesian: Selat Malaka, Thai: ช่องแคบมะละกา, Tamil: மலாக்கா நீரிணை, Chinese: 马六甲海峡) or Straits of Malacca is a narrow, 550 mi (890 km) stretch of water between the Malay Peninsula (Peninsular Malaysia) and the Indonesian island of Sumatra.[2] As the main shipping channel between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, it is one of the most important shipping lanes in the world. It is named after the Malacca Sultanate that ruled over the archipelago between 1400 and 1511.

Strait of Malacca
Malay: Selat Melaka
Indonesian: Selat Malaka
Thai: ช่องแคบมะละกา
Tamil: மலாக்கா நீரிணை
Chinese: 马六甲海峡
Strait of malacca
The Strait of Malacca connects the Pacific Ocean to the east with the Indian Ocean to the west
LocationAndaman Sea-Karimata Strait
Coordinates4°N 100°E / 4°N 100°ECoordinates: 4°N 100°E / 4°N 100°E
Basin countriesThailand
Average depth25 metres (82 ft) (minimum)[1]
SettlementsMalacca City
Port Klang
Satun Province


The International Hydrographic Organization define the limits of the Strait of Malacca as follows:[3]

On the West. A line joining Pedropunt, the Northernmost point of Sumatra (5°40′N 95°26′E / 5.667°N 95.433°E) and Lem Voalan the Southern extremity of Goh Puket [Phuket Island] in Siam [Thailand] (7°45′N 98°18′E / 7.750°N 98.300°E).

On the East. A line joining Tanjong Piai (Bulus), the Southern extremity of the Malay Peninsula (1°16′N 103°31′E / 1.267°N 103.517°E) and The Brothers (1°11.5′N 103°21′E / 1.1917°N 103.350°E) and thence to Klein Karimoen (1°10′N 103°23.5′E / 1.167°N 103.3917°E).

On the North. The Southwestern coast of the Malay Peninsula.

On the South. The Northeastern coast of Sumatra as far to the eastward as Tanjong Kedabu (1°06′N 102°58′E / 1.100°N 102.967°E) thence to Klein Karimoen.


The Strait of Malacca as viewed from the city of Malacca, Malaysia. Pulau Besar is visible in the distance.

Early traders from Arabia, Africa, Persia, and the Southern Indian kingdoms reached Kedah before arriving at Guangzhou. Kedah served as a western port on the Malay Peninsula. They traded glassware, camphor, cotton goods, brocades, ivory, sandalwood, perfume, and precious stones. These traders sailed to Kedah via the monsoon winds between June and November. They returned between December and May. Kedah provided accommodations, porters, small vessels, bamboo rafts, elephants, and also tax collections for goods to be transported overland toward the eastern ports of the Malay Peninsula such as Langkasuka and Kelantan. After the Tenth Century, ships from China began to trade at these eastern trading posts and ports. Kedah and Funan were famous ports through the 6th century, before shipping began to utilize the Strait of Malacca itself as a trade route.

In the 7th century the maritime empire of Srivijaya based on Palembang, Sumatra, rose to power, and its influence expanded to the Malay peninsula and Java. The empire gained effective control on two major choke points in maritime Southeast Asia; the Strait of Malacca and the Sunda Strait. By launching a series of conquests and raids on potentially rival ports on both side of the strait, Srivijaya ensured its economic and military domination in the region lasted for about 700 years. Srivijaya gained a great benefit from the lucrative spice trade, the tributary trade system with China, and trade with Indian and Arab merchants. The Strait of Malacca became the important maritime trade route between India and China. The importance of the Strait of Malacca in global trade networks continued well into later centuries with the rise of the Malacca Sultanate in the 15th century, the Johor Sultanate, and the rise of the modern city-state of Singapore.

Since the 17th century, the strait has been the main shipping channel between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. Different major regional powers managed the straits during different historical periods.[4]

In the early 19th century, the Dutch and British empires drew an arbitrary boundary line in the strait and promised to hunt down pirates on their respective sides; that line went on to become today's border between Malaysia and Indonesia.[2] The strait was already established as one of the world's busiest shipping lanes, with Indonesia controlling the majority of the sea lane.[5]

Economic importance

Ship on the Strait of Malacca from Bukit Melawati
A ship sailing on the Strait of Malacca, as seen from Bukit Melawati in Kuala Selangor

From an economic and strategic perspective, the Strait of Malacca is one of the most important shipping lanes in the world.

The strait is the main shipping channel between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, linking major Asian economies such as India, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, China, Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea. Over 94,000 vessels[6] pass through the strait each year (2008) making it the busiest strait in the world,[7] carrying about 25% of the world's traded goods, including oil, Chinese manufactured products, coal, palm oil and Indonesian coffee.[8] About a quarter of all oil carried by sea passes through the Strait, mainly from Persian Gulf suppliers to Asian markets. In 2007, an estimated 13.7 million barrels per day were transported through the strait, increasing to an estimated 15.2 million barrels per day in 2011.[9] In addition, it is also one of the world's most congested shipping choke points because it narrows to only 2.8 km (1.5 nautical miles) wide at the Phillips Channel (close to the south of Singapore).[10]

The maximum size (specifically draught) of a vessel that can pass through the Strait is referred to as Malaccamax, that is, for some of the world's largest ships (mostly oil tankers), the Strait's minimum depth (25 metres or 82 feet) is not deep enough. This is determined by the relative shallow Singapore Strait, which provides passage to the Karimata Strait in the east. The next closest passageway (the Sunda Strait between Sumatra and Java) is even more shallow and narrow. Therefore, ships exceeding the Malaccamax must detour a few thousand nautical miles and use the Lombok Strait, Makassar Strait, Sibutu Passage, or Mindoro Strait instead.

Shipping hazards

Piracy has been a problem in the strait. Piracy had been high in the 2000s, with additional increase after the events of September 11, 2001.[11] After attacks rose again in the first half of 2004, regional navies stepped up their patrols of the area in July 2004. Subsequently, attacks on ships in the Strait of Malacca dropped, to 79 in 2005 and 50 in 2006.[12] Recent reports indicate that attacks have dropped to near-zero levels in recent years.[13]

There are 34 shipwrecks, some dating to the 1880s, in the local TSS channel (the channel for commercial ships under the global Traffic Separation Scheme). These pose a collision hazard in the narrow and shallow strait.[14]

On 20 August 2017, the United States Navy destroyer USS John S. McCain lost ten of its crew's lives in a collision with the merchant ship Alnic MC a short distance east of the strait whilst full steering capabilities had been lost and making a series of errors in attempted mitigation, its external lights being changed to "red over red" ("vessel not under command").[15]

Malaysian Haze 2005 Aerosol Index
Yearly haze from the smoke of raging bush fires, limiting visibility.

Another risk is the annual haze due to bush fires in Sumatra, Indonesia. It may reduce visibility to 200 metres (660 ft), forcing ships to slow down in the busy strait. The strait is frequently used by ships longer than 350 metres (1,150 ft).[16]

Proposals to relieve the strait

Thailand has developed plans to divert much of the strait's traffic and hence some of its economic significance to a shorter route: the Thai government has, several times, proposed to cut a canal through the Isthmus of Kra, saving around 960 kilometres (600 mi) from the journey between the two oceans. China has offered to cover the costs, according to a report leaked to The Washington Times in 2004. Nevertheless, and despite the support of several Thai politicians, the prohibitive financial and ecological costs suggest that such a canal will not be built.

An alternative is to install a pipeline across the Isthmus of Kra to carry oil to ships waiting on the other side. Proponents calculate it would cut the cost of oil delivery to Asia by about $0.50/barrel ($3/m3). Myanmar has also made a similar pipeline proposal.

See also


  1. ^ Malaccamax
    As the name suggests, Malaccamax ships are the largest ships that can pass through the Strait off Malacca which is 25 m (82 ft) deep. As per the current permissible limits, a Malaccamax vessel can have a maximum length of 400 m (1,312ft), beam of 59 m (193.5 ft), and draught of 14.5 m (47.5 ft). Comparison of Tanker sizes
  2. ^ a b Winn, Patrick (27 Mar 2014). "Strait of Malacca Is World's New Piracy Hotspot". NBC News. Archived from the original on 2017-03-15. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  3. ^ Limits of Oceans and Seas (PDF) (3rd ed.). International Hydrographic Organization. 1953. p. 23. Retrieved 2018-12-03.
  4. ^ Pineda, Guillermo (2012). "The Strait of Malacca as one of the most important geopolitical regions for the People's Republic of China". Archived from the original on 2017-01-30 – via
  5. ^ "Malay Archipelago". THE MARITIME HERITAGE PROJECT. Archived from the original on 2017-03-15. Retrieved 14 Mar 2017.
  6. ^ Archived 2011-06-05 at the Wayback Machine (in English)
  7. ^ Strait of Malacca - World Oil Transit Chokepoints Archived 2014-11-22 at the Wayback Machine, Energy Information Administration, U.S. Department of Energy
  8. ^ Freeman, Donald B. (2003). The Straits of Malacca: Gateway or Gauntlet?. McGill-Queen's University Press. ISBN 0-7735-2515-7.. A book review citing this information can be found at University of Toronto Quarterly, Volume 74, Number 1, Winter 2004/5, pp. 528-530
  9. ^ "International - U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 22 November 2014. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  10. ^ "International - U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 22 November 2014. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  11. ^ Raymond, Catherine (2009). "PIRACY AND ARMED ROBBERY IN THE MALACCA STRAIT: A Problem Solved?". Naval War College Review. 62: 31–42 – via Proquest.
  12. ^ Piracy down 3rd year in row: IMB report Archived 2013-12-17 at the Wayback Machine, Journal of Commerce Online, January 23, 2007
  13. ^ "Drastic drop in piracy in Malacca Straits - MaritimeSecurity.Asia". Archived from the original on 7 November 2017. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  14. ^ "34 wrecks in sealane threaten passing ships". Archived from the original on 10 May 2007. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  15. ^ Affairs, This story was written by U.S. 7th Fleet Public. "UPDATE: USS John S. McCain Collides with Merchant Ship". Archived from the original on 5 November 2017. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  16. ^ Nachmani, Amikam (November 8, 2003). Turkey: facing a new millenium: Coping with Intertwined Conflicts (Europe in Change). Manchester, United Kingdom: Manchester University Press. ISBN 9780719063701. |access-date= requires |url= (help)

Further reading

  • Borschberg, Peter, The Singapore and Melaka Straits: Violence, Security and Diplomacy in the 17th Century (Singapore and Leiden: NUS Press and KITLV Press, 2010).
  • Borschberg, Peter, ed., Iberians in the Singapore-Melaka Area and Adjacent Regions (16th to 18th Century) (Wiesbaden and Lisbon: Harrassowitz and Fundação Oriente, 2004).
  • Borschberg, Peter, ed. The Memoirs and Memorials of Jacques de Coutre. Security, Trade and Society in 17th Century Southeast Asia (Singapore: NUS Press, 2013).
  • Borschberg, Peter, ed., Journal, Memorials and Letters of Cornelis Matelieff de Jonge. Security, Diplomacy and Commerce in 17th Century Southeast Asia (Singapore: NUS Press, 2015).
  • Borschberg, Peter, "The value of Admiral Matelieff's writings for the history of Southeast Asia, c. 1600–1620", Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 48(3), pp. 414–435. doi:10.1017/S002246341700056X
  • Borschberg P. and M. Krieger, ed., Water and State in Asia and Europe (New Delhi: Manohar, 2008).

External links

Action of 14 February 1944

The Action of 14 February 1944 refers to the sinking of a German U-boat off the Strait of Malacca during World War II by a British submarine. It was one of the few naval engagements of the Asian and Pacific theater involving German and Italian forces.

Bukit Melawati

Bukit Melawati or Melawati Hill is a hill in Malaysia near Kuala Selangor.

Bukit Melawati is a popular tourist attraction. The hill overlooks the Strait of Malacca and has a lighthouse as well as the remains of the Kota Melawati fort. The fort was built in the late 1700s by Sultan Ibrahim of Selangor to protect against Dutch invaders but the Dutch captured it a renamed it Fort Altingburg. Sultan Ibrahim recaptured the fort in 1785 but it was eventually destroyed during the Selangor Civil War. The Altingsburgh Lighthouse was built by the Dutch in 1794.

Another attraction of Bukit Melawati is the presence of silvered leaf monkeys and long-tailed macaques, which are provisioned by tourists. The silvered leaf monkeys at Bukit Malawati are habituated to humans and sometimes willingly touch and climb on visitors, in addition to approaching to beg for food. Attractions also include a tram ride, a royal mausoleum and a museum. The hill is located near additional tourist attractions, Kampung Kuantan Firefly Park and Kuala Selangor Nature Park.

Deli Serdang Regency

Deli Serdang (Indonesian: Kabupaten Deli Serdang; Jawi: دلي سردڠ) is a regency in the Indonesian province of North Sumatra. It surrounds the city of Medan, and also borders the chartered city Binjai, which is effectively a bedroom community for Medan. t occupies an area of 2,241.7 The capital of the district is Lubuk Pakam, which is located approximately 30 km east of Medan. Its 2010 census population was 1,790,431 people, but the latest official estimate (for January 2014) is 1,865,695. Medan's new airport in Kuala Namu is in this regency.

The boundaries of the district are with:

To the north: the Langkat Regency and the Strait of Malacca.

To the south: the Karo Regency and Simalungun Regency.

To the east: the Serdang Bedagai Regency and the Strait of Malacca.

To the west: the Karo Regency, Langkat Regency and the city of Binjai.Deli Serdang has three plantations owned by London Sumatra (LONSUM).In June 2004, farmers and indigenous peoples in a number of villages within the district had protested over land ownership of their villages (apparently, the government had leased the land in the villages to LONSUM, but they rejected such leasings and resisted moving). It is said that the authorities had shot farmers and indigenous people attempting to reoccupy the villages.The national census of 2000 recorded 1,572,768 people, but by 2010 the regency's population increased by 13.76% to 1,789,243; the latest official estimate (for January 2014) is 1,865,695.

Ko Lipe

Ko Lipe (Thai: เกาะหลีเป๊ะ) is a small island in the Adang-Rawi Archipelago of the Strait of Malacca, in Satun Province of southwest Thailand, close to the Malaysian border. The Thai name is transliterated in many different ways into English. The most common names are "Koh Lipe", "Koh Lipeh", "Ko Lipey", and "Ko Lipe". Ko Lipe is on the border of the Tarutao National Marine Park and is directly south of the larger islands Ko Adang and Ko Rawi, and about 50 km from the island of Ko Tarutao. It was originally settled by a group of sea gypsies (chao leh in Thai), originally from Malaysia, known as the Urak Lawoi’ people.

List of ports and harbours of the Indian Ocean

This is a list of ports and harbours of the Indian Ocean.


Malaccamax is a naval architecture term for the largest tonnage of ship capable of fitting through the 25-metre-deep (82 ft) Strait of Malacca. Bulk carriers and supertankers have been built to this tonnage, and the term is chosen for very large crude carriers (VLCC). They can transport oil from Arabia to China. A typical Malaccamax tanker can have a maximum length of 333 m (1,093 ft), beam of 60 m (197 ft), draught of 20.5 m (67.3 ft), and tonnage of 300,000 DWT.Similar terms Panamax, Suezmax and Seawaymax are used for the largest ships capable of fitting through the Panama Canal, the Suez Canal and Saint Lawrence Seaway, respectively. Aframax tankers are those with a deadweight tonnage of 80,000 to 120,000.

Malay Peninsula

The Malay Peninsula (Malay: Semenanjung Tanah Melayu) is a peninsula in Southeast Asia. The land mass runs approximately north-south and, at its terminus, is the southernmost point of the Asian mainland. The area contains Peninsular Malaysia, Southern Thailand, and the southernmost tip of Myanmar (Kawthaung) as well as the city state Singapore, indigenous to or historically inhabited by the Malays, an Austronesian people.

The Titiwangsa Mountains are part of the Tenasserim Hills system, and form the backbone of the Peninsula. They form the southernmost section of the central cordillera which runs from Tibet through the Kra Isthmus (the Peninsula's narrowest point) into the Malay Peninsula. The Strait of Malacca separates the Malay Peninsula from the Indonesian island of Sumatra while the south coast is separated from the island of Singapore by the Straits of Johor.

Mu Ko Phetra National Park

Mu Ko Phetra is a marine national park in the Strait of Malacca off Thailand, covering mostly intact coastal line, open water, and about 30 islands of the southern part of Trang Province and the northern part of Satun Province. Established on 31 December 1984, it is the 49th national park and 14th marine national park of Thailand.

The majority of the park, about 94.74% or 468.38 km² out of 494.38 km² is open water. The two largest islands of the park are Ko Phetra (Thai: เกาะเภตรา) and Ko Khao Yai (Thai: เกาะเขาใหญ่). Several islands are marine turtle egg laying sites. Rich coral reefs are present around islands. Many of the islands consist of steep limestone rocks and little beaches. They are used as temporary refuges by fishermen during fishing season.

In the caves of the cliffs high above the ground on some of the islands are where swiftlets build their nest and breed. Several islands were placed under concession for decades to collect bird nests. They are highly valuable and closely guarded with firearms. Traveling to those islands should be done with local tour companies as their boats are recognized and ignored by guards.

The Thai name Phetra comes from Malay Pulau Petra (the island of Petra).

The continued existence of the park is threatened by the proposed Pak Bara deepwater seaport.

Peninsular Malaysia

Peninsular Malaysia, also known as Malaya or West Malaysia, is the part of Malaysia which lies on the Malay Peninsula and surrounding islands. Its area is 132,265 square kilometres (51,068 sq mi), which is nearly 40% of the total area of the country - 330,611 square kilometres (127,650 sq mi) - or slightly smaller than England and Java island. It shares a land border with Thailand in the north. To the south is the island of Singapore.Across the Strait of Malacca to the west lies the Sumatra Island (Indonesia) and across the South China Sea to the east lies the Natuna Islands (Indonesia). Peninsular Malaysia accounts for the majority (roughly 81.3%) of Malaysia's population and economy; as of 2017 its population is roughly 26 million (92% of total population).

Phang Nga Bay

Phang Nga Bay (Thai: อ่าวพังงา, RTGS: Ao Phangnga, Thai pronunciation: [ʔàːw pʰāŋ.ŋāː]) is a 400 km2 bay in the Strait of Malacca between the island of Phuket and the mainland of the Malay peninsula of southern Thailand. Since 1981, an extensive section of the bay has been protected as the Ao Phang Nga National Park. The park is in Phang Nga Province, at 08°17'N 098°36'E.

Limestone cliffs with caves, collapsed cave systems, and archaeological sites are found about Phang Nga Bay. Around 10,000 years ago, when sea levels were lower, it was possible to walk from Phuket and Krabi.

Piracy in Indonesia

Piracy in Indonesia is not only notorious, but according to a survey conducted by the International Maritime Bureau, it was also the country sporting the highest rate of pirate attacks back in 2004, where it subsequently dropped to second place of the world's worst country of pirate attacks in 2008, finishing just behind Nigeria. However, Indonesia is still deemed the country with the world's most dangerous water due to its high piracy rate.

With more than half of the world's piracy crimes surrounding the South-East Asia aquatic regions, the turmoil caused by piracy has made the Strait of Malacca a distinct pirate hotspot accounting for most of the attacks in Indonesia, making the ships that sail in this region risky ever since the Europeans arrived. The term 'Piracy in Indonesia' includes both cases of Indonesian pirates hijacking other cargo and tanks, as well as the high rate of practising piracy within the country itself. The Strait of Malacca is also one of the world's busiest shipping routes as it accounts for more than twenty-five percent of the world's barter goods that come mainly from China and Japan. Approximately 50,000 vessels worth of the world's trade employ the strait annually, including oil from the Persian Gulf and manufactured goods to the Middle East and Suez Canal. The success that stems from this trade portal makes the Strait an ideal location for pirate attacks.

Piracy in the 21st century

Piracy in the 21st century has taken place in a number of waters around the world, including the Gulf of Guinea, Strait of Malacca, Indian Ocean, and Falcon Lake.

Piracy in the Strait of Malacca

Piracy in the Strait of Malacca has for long been a threat to ship owners and the mariners who ply the 900 km-long (550 miles) sea lane. In recent years, coordinated patrols by Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore along with increased security on vessels have sparked a sharp downturn in piracy.

The Strait of Malacca's geography makes the region very susceptible to piracy. It was and still is an important passageway between China and India, used heavily for commercial trade. The strait is on the route between Europe, the Suez Canal, the oil-exporting countries of the Persian Gulf, and the busy ports of East Asia. It is narrow, contains thousands of islets, and is an outlet for many rivers, making it ideal for pirates to evade capture.

SS Galileo Galilei

SS Galileo Galilei was an ocean liner built in 1963 by Cantieri Riuniti dell' Adriatico, Monfalcone, Italy for Lloyd Triestino's Italy—Australia service. In 1979, she was converted to a cruise ship, and subsequently sailed under the names Galileo and Meridian. She sank in the Strait of Malacca in 1999 as the Sun Vista.

Sovereign of the Seas (clipper)

Sovereign of the Seas, a clipper ship built in 1852, was a sailing vessel notable for setting the world record for fastest sailing ship—22 knots.The record was set in 1854. Sovereign of the Seas has held it since.

Straits of Johor

The Johore Strait (also known as the Tebrau Strait, Straits of Johor, Selat Johor, Selat Tebrau, and Tebrau Reach) is an international strait in Southeast Asia, between Singapore and Peninsular Malaysia.

Tanjung Tuan

Tanjung Tuan or Cape Rachado (as named by the Portuguese, meaning Broken Cape) is an area in Alor Gajah District, Malacca, Malaysia. It is an exclave of Malacca adjacent to Port Dickson, Negeri Sembilan.

The cape is well known for the Cape Rachado Lighthouse facing the Strait of Malacca. The coastal area off the cape is famous as the site of the naval Battle of Cape Rachado in 1606, between the Dutch VOC and Portuguese fleets. The battle was the opening act for the series of conflicts between the Dutch-Johor coalition and Portuguese Malacca that ultimately ended with the Portuguese surrender of the city and fort of Malacca to the VOC in 1641.

Tarutao National Park

Tarutao National Park (Thai: อุทยานแห่งชาติตะรุเตา) consists of 51 islands in the Strait of Malacca, off the coast of Satun Province of southern Thailand. The Tarutao National Park consists of two island groups: Tarutao (Thai: หมู่เกาะตะรุเตา, Thai pronunciation: [mùː kɔ̀ʔ tàʔ.rúʔ.taw] or []) and Adang-Rawi (Thai: หมู่เกาะอาดัง-ราวี, Thai pronunciation: [mùː kɔ̀ʔ ʔaːdaŋ raːwiː]), which are scattered from 20 to 70 kilometres' distance from the south-westernmost point of mainland Thailand. The park covers an area of 1,490 square kilometres (1,260 ocean, 230 island). The southernmost end of the park lies on the border with Malaysia, just north of Langkawi. Tarutao became Thailand's second marine national park on 19 April 1974. The coastal Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park had been designated in 1966.

The name "tarutao" is a Thai corruption of its original Malay name, "pulau tertua", "old, mysterious, and primitive island."Ko Tarutao was the setting for Survivor: Thailand, the 2002 season for the U.S. reality television series, Survivor.

Trang Province

Trang (Thai: ตรัง, pronounced [trāŋ]), also called Mueang Thap Thiang, is one of the southern provinces (changwat) of Thailand, on the west side of the Malay Peninsula facing the Strait of Malacca. Neighboring provinces are (from north clockwise) Krabi, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Phatthalung, and Satun.

Trang was formerly a port involved in foreign trade. It was the first place where rubber was planted in Thailand. Phraya Ratsadanupradit Mahison Phakdi brought rubber saplings from Malaya and planted them here in 1899, and rubber is now an important export of the country. The Trang River flows through the province from its origin in the Khao Luang mountain range, and the Palian River flows from the Banthat mountains. The province of Trang has an area of approximately 5,000 square km and 199 km of Strait of Malacca shoreline.

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