14 October 2009

Your Excellencies,

Heads of the Maritime Agencies of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore,

Distinguished Delegates,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning,

1 It is a pleasure for me to join you here at the 2nd Co-operation Forum on Safety of Navigation and Environmental Protection in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore.

2 Today, one third of the world's trade flows and half its oil continues to be transported through the Straits of Malacca and Singapore. The Straits remains one of the busiest and most important shipping lanes in the world. For world trade to flourish and economic recovery to take place, it is essential that the Straits remain open, safe and secure. It was for this very reason that the three littoral states - Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore - came together, to launch the Co-operative Mechanism.

Progress by the Co-operative Mechanism's Three Key Pillars
3 Today's Co-operation Forum is one of three key pillars of the Co-operative Mechanism. The other two are the Aids to Navigation Fund; and the Project Co-ordination Committee to co-ordinate the implementation of Straits projects. The key feature of the Co-operation Forum is to provide a platform where the littoral states, as well as key users of the Straits can meet, exchange views, and explore collaborations. I am told an increasing number of user States are requesting to make presentations at this Forum. I find this readiness to share best-practices and the cross-fertilisation of ideas encouraging.

4 For the first time, the 2nd Co-operation Forum will include two panel discussions: one on "Safety of Navigation"; and another on "Environmental Protection". I am sure you will agree that both of these topics are highly relevant in today's context. In another first, both panels will also actively engage industry in dialogue. As important stakeholders, industry participation will bring new insights and inject fresh vigour into the conversation. I look forward to learning about the outcome of your deliberations.

5 Apart from the Co-operation Forum, I am told that the other two pillars of the Co-operative Mechanism have similarly made good progress. To date, the Aids to Navigation Fund (or ANF) has received a total of some US$7.3 million, in both pledged and actual contributions. Its list of contributors is increasing, and includes Japan, the Nippon Foundation, the United Arab Emirates, the Middle East Navigation Service and the Malacca Strait Council. The Japanese Shipowners' Association and the Republic of Korea have also indicated their intention to contribute. On behalf of Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, allow me to express my appreciation to all of you for your generous contributions towards capacity building along this important waterway.

6 Under the Project Co-ordination Committee, major user states such as Australia, China, Japan, the United States and the Republic of Korea are also collaborating with the littoral states on various Straits projects. I am pleased to learn of the progress and that a number of these projects have also received the support of a new user state (India) and new stakeholders. It clearly demonstrates the importance of these efforts in ensuring the safety of navigation and the protection of the marine environment in the Straits. I am certain that over the course of the next few days, you will have plenty of opportunity to engage in a deeper discussion on how to make these projects even more relevant.

International Maritime Organisation / Joint Technical Arrangement
7 Of course the Co-operative Mechanism could not have come this far without the strong support and continued participation of the International Maritime Organization, or IMO. The Co-operative Mechanism was actually an outcome of the IMO's "Protection of Vital Shipping Lanes" initiative. We are grateful to the IMO Secretary-General Efthimios Mitropoulos for his vision.

8 As a signal of the IMO's continued commitment to the Co-operative Mechanism, the three littoral States and the IMO will sign a Joint Technical Arrangement (or JTA in short) later this morning. This JTA will institutionalise an IMO Straits of Malacca and Singapore Trust Fund that supports cooperation among stakeholders in enhancing safety and marine environment protection. The Fund benefits from an initial contribution of US$1million from Greece. It is a further realisation of the spirit of Article 43 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS, which calls for co-operation amongst userStates and coastal States in the maintenance of straits used for international navigation which the Straits of Malacca and Singapore is.

9 Ladies and Gentlemen, we should be duly proud of the advancements made by the Co-operative Mechanism. But we should also be aware of the many challenges ahead. Going forward, we will need to work doubly hard to sustain interest and keep the momentum going. This is not only to entrench progress, but also to encourage further participation and contributions from existing as well as new stakeholders. In short, the Co-operative Mechanism will have to continually demonstrate its relevance and that it is deserving of attention.

10 Distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen, that we are all gathered here today is a strong testimony to the collective interest and commitment of coastal and user States to work together to ensure that the Straits of Malacca and Singapore remains safe and open to shipping. We have in our midst a wealth of expertise and experience which we should fully tap on to advance our shared objective. I strongly encourage you to make full use of this opportunity to engage one another.

11 With this, I now declare the 2nd Co-operation Forum open.

12 Thank you.