The Strait of Malacca is a long and narrow stretch of water located between the Malay Peninsula, West Malaysia, and the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The strait has a width of about 890 kilometres and a depth of 25 meters. The Strait of Malacca's name was derived from the Malacca Sultanate, who governed the archipelago from 1400 until 1511.
Geography of the Strait of Malacca
The Strait of Malacca links the Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean to the east and west, respectively. Where the strait extends to the Philips Channel at Singapore, it narrows to a width of 2.8 km. Sumatra's Malaya Peninsula is the strait's northern boundary, while its southern boundary is Lem Voalan, which is the southern extremity of Phuket Island. The northwest boundary of the strait borders the Ujong Baka, and water separates the Nicobar Islands from the Sumatran islands. The southeasternmost part of the strait is defined by Tajung Piai.
Economic Significance of the Strait of Malacca
The Strait of Malacca is a vital global shipping lane. The strait is a major shipping connection between the Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean, and it represents a major link between large Asian countries such as South Korea, China, Taiwan, Japan, and India. The connection of these countries has had a major impact on their shipping companies. Furthermore, a large portion of the world’s shipping routes use the Strait of Malacca. Many of the goods shipped through the strait are manufactured products from China, Indonesian coffee, and oil. In ancient times, traders from Kedah used the monsoon winds of November and June to sail from shore to shore, and then used the December and the May winds to travel back.
The term Malaccamax is used to define the maximum volume of a vessel that is able to pass through the Strait of Malacca. The strait is not large enough to allow the passage of large ships, especially oil tankers. A ship whose volume exceeds the Malaccamax must use wider and deeper straits such as Lombok Strait, Makassar Strait, and the Mindoro Strait.
Piracy is a common problem in the Strait of Malacca. The frequency of attacks has gradually increased from the 1990s up until 2004. In fact, a third of the world’s piracy occurred in the Strait of Malacca. However, Malaysian, Indonesian, and Singaporean naval forces began to police the strait, and as a result the number of piracy cases has gradually declined since 2004. Shipwrecks are also a common hazard that has affected the shipping process. Approximately 34 shipwrecks have occurred in the strait. Annual bush fires of Sumatra greatly impact visibility in the strait, and reduced visibility forces ships to slow down in the busy strait.