Japan's Official Development Assistance White Paper 2006

Main Text > Part I JAPAN'S OFFICIAL DEVELOPMENT ASSISTANCE FOR WORLD PEACE AND PROSPERITY > Chapter 2 Specific Activities of Japan's ODA > Section 6. Ensuring Maritime Safety

Section 6. Ensuring Maritime Safety

Assistance to Asian Coastal Nations for Ensuring Maritime Safety

Even today, despite the development of high-speed transportation such as airplanes, large-scale ships are still the principal means used to transport crude oil, coal, automobiles and freight because of their capacity to carry massive loads at a time and at relatively low cost. Safe ship navigation along international shipping routes is significant for global trade. For Japan, which relies on sea transport for 99.7% (2003) of its imports and exports, ensuring maritime safety is one of its major priorities.

    Chart I-14 Trends in Japan's Volume of Maritime Transport

Chart I-14 Trends in Japan's Volume of Maritime Transport

    Though the cooperation among littoral states is essential for ensuring maritime safety, efforts of developing countries in this regard also need to be improved. For this reason, Japan has contributed through its ODA to strengthening maritime safety measures implemented by developing coastal countries that lie along coastal navigation areas.

    In order to prevent maritime accidents such as groundings or collisions of ships and ensure the safety of ships that assume maritime transport, it is essential to provide accurate nautical charts, beacons, light buoys, radio beacon stations and other navigational tools. In order to protect the lives and property of crews and secure the order of the sea, systems need to be established for preventing and investigating crimes at sea such as piracy, maritime terrorism and the smuggling of firearms and drugs. The establishment of systems for sea rescue and prevention of oil spills in the case of maritime accidents is also essential for safe navigation.

    However, measures taken by developing countries to ensure maritime safety are often insufficient due to shortages of human resource, financial and technological capacity. For this reason, Japan has contributed to ensuring maritime safety in Asia by offering Asian littoral states technical assistance and equipment provision for nautical charts and navigational beacons, as well as assisting them in establishing maritime safety agencies. In addition, since crimes at sea such as terrorism and piracy can sometimes be caused by poverty in coastal areas, Japan has contributed to the stable development of coastal areas and safe navigation in the surrounding sea areas by providing assistance for rural development and other poverty reduction efforts for coastal areas.

Measures for Safe Navigation through the Strait of Malacca

Japan's ODA to the areas surrounding the Strait of Malacca is presented below as an example of how ODA contributes to international maritime safety.

    Southeast Asian waters, including the South China Sea and the seas near Indonesia and the Philippines, comprise many islands. These waters are important as a link between the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean. For example, the Strait of Malacca, which constitutes a 1,000km sea route between the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra Island, is the shortest route linking the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Therefore, it occupies an important position as the international strait and is used by more than 90,000 ships a year. The strait constitutes a major maritime artery supporting Japanese trade and is used by approximately 14,000 Japanese-affiliated ships each year.

    Chart I-15 Japan's Major Shipping Routes and Countries Targeted for ODA Provisions

Chart I-15 Japan's Major Shipping Routes and Countries Targeted for ODA Provisions

    However, the Strait of Malacca poses many problems and difficulties that must be dealt with in order to ensure safe navigation. Firstly, since the strait is narrow and contains many obstacles such as shoals and sunken ships, forcing ships to run slowly, it is a perilous stretch for large ships. Secondly, piracy and other maritime crimes that threaten the safety of ships have frequently occurred in the waters surrounding the strait. In 2005, 102 incidents of piracy took place in Southeast Asian waters including the Strait of Malacca, corresponding to 37% of total registered incidents in the world. In March 2005, an incident arose in which a tugboat under the Japanese flag "Idaten" was attacked by a small boat containing an armed group in transit while navigating in the Strait of Malacca within the territorial waters of Malaysia. The captain and the chief engineer, both Japanese, and three Philippine crewmen were abducted.

    Thus, the Strait of Malacca is not only perilous to navigate but also prone to frequent piracy. Japan has therefore conducted hydrographical surveys of hazardous spots in the Strait such as shoals, and has also provided technical assistance for drawing charts as well as for installing, operating and maintaining navigational beacons to Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and other coastal countries. In December 2005, Japan completed an electronic nautical chart for the Strait of Malacca and Singapore in cooperation with Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. The electronic chart has greatly contributed to the safety of navigation since the vessels equipped with the chart are able to identify their own positions all the times while passing through the Straits.

    To enhance the efforts of the littoral states in Southeast Asia to fight against piracy and other crimes at sea and to prevent maritime disasters , Japan has actively supported the establishment and the capacity development of maritime safety agencies in these states. In the Philippines, for example, the maritime safety agency was separated from the navy in 1998, but its capacity to carry out its missions was insufficient. Due to the absence of a training program in human resource development and a shortage of equipment and materials, its system had not been adequately put into place. In order to strengthen the capacity of the Philippines maritime safety agency to carry out its responsibilities and support its staff in learning methods of human resource development, Japan dispatched an officer from the Japan Coast Guard to the Philippines as a JICA expert to provide technical assistance. Japan also dispatched a policy advisor to Malaysia, thereby contributing to improving the capabilities of the country's maritime safety agency established in 2005. Japan also dispatched a policy advisor to Indonesia to assist in its efforts to establish a maritime safety agency expected to be established in the near future.

    In FY2003, Japan extended a yen loan in the amount of ¥5,567 million for the implementation of the Maritime Telecommunication System Development Project (Phase IV) in Indonesia. The seas offshore of Indonesia are important to maritime transportation connecting East Asia with the Middle East and Europe. However, because shipping accidents and piracy attacks occurred frequently, there was a need to develop maritime telecommunications stations in order to ensure safety at sea. For this purpose, 33 maritime telecommunications and 4 advanced Automatic Identification Systems stations will be installed through a yen loan, providing a high-quality and highly reliable maritime telecommunications service to relay information on navigational safety, weather and port conditions, and distress communications. These facilities are expected to ensure the safety of ships navigating the Strait of Malacca and Indonesian waters and promote sea traffic control.

    In June 2006, Japan extended assistance to Indonesia aimed at strengthening the country's maritime police capabilities, contributing ¥1,921 million in grant aid to the Project for Construction of Patrol Vessels for the Prevention of Piracy, Maritime Terrorism and Proliferation of Weapons, with a view to providing Indonesia with three patrol vessels.

    Severe poverty in coastal areas is often the cause of crimes at sea or piracy because some people among the poor have no other means but to be involved in piracy in order to make a living. For this reason, Japan has provided support based on the experiences it acquired in the area surrounding the Lombok Strait in alleviating poverty and countering piracy. The islands in the vicinity of the Lombok Strait are one of the poorest areas of Indonesia. To support rural development in this area, Japan constructed reservoirs, dams and other components of irrigation systems and provided training for technicians to operate and maintain the system. As a result, agricultural productivity improved and farmers' incomes increased about five-fold over a period of 12 years. These efforts aimed at alleviating poverty have improved the income of local people and brought stability to their lives, and thus are expected to contribute to reducing the frequency of piracy and improving maritime safety to some extent.

    Chart I-16 Record of Assistance for Maritime Safety in Asia

Chart I-16 Record of Assistance for Maritime Safety in Asia


Measures implemented through the self-help efforts of littoral states and Japan's ODA are still in their initial stages. Up to now, Japan has supported these states located around the seas surrounding Southeast Asia, including the Strait of Malacca through the provision of navigational beacons and accurate nautical charts and the development of personnel to operate maritime safety agencies.

    In order to prevent aggravating acts of piracy, it is necessary to further improve the capabilities of the maritime safety agencies of Indonesia, Malaysia and other countries and to strengthen coordination with governments and relevant authorities. These efforts will not only prevent the occurrence of piracy but also lead to stronger measures against crimes and stronger control of the smuggling of firearms and drugs, and transit of terrorists from island to island and from country to country. These measures are also expected to promote speedier sea rescue operations and more effective responses to maritime disasters.