ABOARD THE 'KRI TANJUNG DALPELE' (JP): Seventeen warships from Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore conducted a sail past on Tuesday in a show of force as the navies from the three countries launched coordinated patrols aimed at stamping out piracy in the Malacca Strait.
The "Malsindo" operation is a year-round operation designed to ensure greater safety for the 50,000 or so commercial ships that pass through the narrow strait each year.
Present at the launching ceremony for the operation were the chiefs of the militaries in the three countries -- Gen. Endriartono Sutarto of Indonesia, Gen. Zahidi Zainuddin of Malaysia and Lt. Gen. Ng Yat Chung of Singapore -- as well as their respective navy chiefs: Admirals Bernard Kent Sondakh of Indonesia, Mohd. Anwar Mohd. Nor of Malaysia and Ronny Tay ofSingapore.
They watched the launch ceremony from the Indonesian warship KRI Tanjung Dalpele.
As part of the operation, each navy is committed to providing between five and seven ships to patrol the Malacca Strait. They have also established a hotline that will allow them to communicate so as to better coordinate the operation, particularly when a vessel from one of the countries is in pursuit of pirates.
A warship from one country will also be allowed to enter the waters of another country when chasing a pirate ship, provided that this is communicated first to the host country.
The International Maritime Bureau, an arm of the Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce, reported that in 2003 there were 28 pirate attacks in the Malacca Strait, one of the world's busiest sea lanes through which one-third of global shipping trade and one-half of the world's oil cargoes pass. Most of the attacks took place in Indonesian waters, according to the Bureau.
Gen. Endriartono told reporters later that the operation would welcome offers of support and assistance from other countries in the form of equipment or skills training. "Of if they want to join in, this should first be approved by all the three countries."
Indonesia and Malaysia had earlier rejected out of hand a Singapore proposal for a fourth country -- meaning the United States -- to take part in patrolling the strait.