Chinese ships on Malacca strait told to be on highest alert

(FMT) – China raised the security level for its vessels heading through the Strait of Malacca, according to a notice this week posted on the website of the Chinese transport ministry.

The ministry advised Chinese-flagged ships to take heightened security steps and increased its security warning to level three.

Three is the highest security level in Chinese shipping regulations and is used when an incident is likely or imminent.

By comparison, authorities issued security level two after recent attacks on tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, according to people familiar with the situation.

There was no reason given for the raised alert on Chinese ships.

The Strait of Malacca passes Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia and connects the Indian and Pacific oceans. It also connects Middle Eastern and African energy supplies to Asian economies.

About 16 million barrels a day of oil and fuels in 2016 passed through the strait. Last year, eight piracy and armed robbery incidents were reported in the strait.

The head of Indonesian Maritime Security Agency, Achmad Taufiqoerrochman, said it’s looking into the issue and doesn’t see why China raised the alert status.
Malaysia, Singapore and the US declined to comment.

The warning from China comes after the string of attacks last month on tankers near Hormuz, which the US blamed on Iran and heightened vigilance across the shipping industry.

“If the Strait of Malacca were blocked, nearly half of the world’s fleet would be required to reroute around the Indonesian archipelago,” the US Energy Information Administration said in a 2017 report on oil transit chokepoints.