International Conference on the Straits of Malacca From Geopolitics to Sustainability: Enduring Challenges and Enhancing Multilateral Cooperation in the Straits of Malacca

26 March 2019
Mahsuri International Exhibition Centre (MIEC), Langkawi, Malaysia

Hosted by the Ministry of Transport, Malaysia and organized by the Maritime Institute of Malaysia (MIMA) the above conference was held in conjunction with the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition 2019 (LIMA’19). MIMA has been organizing this series of international conferences on the Straits of Malacca on a biennial basis since 1993.

The conference comprised three sessions aimedat analyzing current geopolitical trends in the Indo Pacific in relation to Southeast Asia, addressing key issues on safety of navigation, security, and the environment, as well as resource management and marine environmental protection issues. The discussions also covered emerging trends in the shipping industry with regard to evolving port technologies, protection of seafarer welfare, and enhancing competency levels.

In delivering his Guest of Honour speech, Tan Sri Mohamed Jawhar Hassan, former Chairman and Chief Executive of the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS), Malaysia noted that the Straits of Malacca has been remarkably cushioned from the effects of major power rivalries and that all parties have respected freedom of passage in this international waterway. He alluded the littoral states should continue to welcome assistance from the user states to strengthen capacity and maintain safety and security of navigation in the straits.

Tan Sri Mohamed Jawhar Hassan delivering his Guest of Honourspeech

In his keynote address, YB Loke Siew Fook, Minister of Transport Malaysia emphasized that new forms of geopolitical trends such as Indo-Pacific issues will have a bearing on the Straits of Malacca. While this may create uncertainty as to the strategic direction of some countries, he believed that it also opens up new opportunities for littoral and user states especially in ensuring greater connectivity and better governance as well as promoting the rule of law in managing activities in this strategic waterway.

YB Loke Siew Fook, Minister of Transport Malaysia

Q&A Session during the conference

Among the takeaways from the conference is that there is a lack of ASEAN Centrality and no clear definition of the Indo-Pacific concept. The second session suggested new and comprehensive perspectives on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to address interlinked issues in the Straits of Malacca especially on marine environmental protection. Finally, there is a need to emphasize the pivotal function of humans despite advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning in the maritime industries.

The discourse gathered 200 participants comprising international think-tanks, government agencies, maritime authorities, port operators, maritime experts, academicians, and policymakers. Heads of marine agencies from ASEAN Plus Three and Small Island Developing States countries also participated in the deliberations.

A field visit to the Langkawi Mangrove Kilim Geoforest Park was also organized toexperience scenic views of unique limestone rock formations emerging from the floor of the mangrove swamps and to learn about the surrounding ecosystemsin the park. Conference delegates also experienced LIMA ’19 the largest show of its kind within the Asia Pacific region during their stay at Langkawi, Malaysia.

Group photo during the field visit to the Langkawi Mangrove Kilim Geoforest Park

The conference proceedings, to be compiled in a report and expected to be ready within two months, will serve as a blueprint for future discussions and outline prospects for enhancing safety, security, and sustainability of the strategic Straits of Malacca.

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