FACTBOX - Malacca Strait is a strategic 'chokepoint'

Thu Mar 4, 2010 4:04pm IST

A Police Coast Guard vessel patrols the shipping lanes near freight ships off the coast of Singapore March 4, 2010. Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia said on Thursday they are stepping up security in the Strait of Malacca, a key shipping lane for world trade, following warnings of possible attacks on oil tankers in the area. REUTERS/Vivek Prakash

A Police Coast Guard vessel patrols the shipping lanes near freight ships off the coast of Singapore March 4, 2010. Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia said on Thursday they are stepping up security in the Strait of Malacca, a key shipping lane for world trade, following warnings of possible attacks on oil tankers in the area.

Credit: Reuters/Vivek Prakash

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REUTERS - Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia said on Thursday they are stepping up security in the Strait of Malacca, a key shipping lane for world trade, following warnings of possible attacks on oil tankers in the area.

Here is some key information about the strait:

- The 900-km long (550 miles) Malacca Strait links Asia with the Middle East and Europe, carrying about 40 percent of the world's trade. More than 50,000 merchant ships ply the waterway every year.

About 3.3 million barrels per day (bpd) of Middle East crude passed through the strait and to Japan last year. Middle East crude accounts for 90 percent of Japan's total imports.

- The route has also become a major concern in recent years for China as the regional power widens its search for energy resources to feed a growing economy.

- The narrow and congested waterway is becoming increasingly important strategically to Beijing, with nearly 80 percent of China's crude oil imports passing through it from the Middle East and Africa.

- At least 15 million bpd of oil flow through the Malacca Strait from the Middle East Gulf and West Africa, comparable to the 17 million bpd that flow via the Strait of Hormuz, the U.S.

Energy Information Administration (EIA) and oil analysts said.

- At its narrowest point in the Phillips Channel of the Singapore Strait, the Malacca Strait is only 1.7 miles (2.7 km) wide, creating a natural bottleneck, as well as potential for collisions, grounding, or oil spills.

- The IEA describes the Malacca Strait as one of six "chokepoints", or narrow channels, along widely used global sea routes. They are a critical part of global energy security due to

the high volume of oil traded through their narrow straits.

The Strait of Hormuz leading out of the Gulf and the Strait of Malacca linking the Indian and Pacific Oceans are two of the worlds most strategic chokepoints.

(Compiled by Singapore Energy Desk, Kuala Lumpur Bureau and Tokyo Energy Team; Editing by Bill Tarrant)

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