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Sabah to gain from Makassar Straits shipping

Updated: Dec 19, 2022

July 22, 2019

KOTA KINABALU:Sabah is in a prime position to gain from international shipping using Makassar Straits, especially the POIC Port at Lahad Datu, according to Minister of International Trade and Industry, Datuk Darell Leiking.

“The future is the Makassar Straits,” he said, adding that the New Zealanders were not very aware of this fact, unlike the Australians, that saw on average some 49 ships of the main line operators (MLO) passing the passage way between Sabah’s East Coast and Indonesia’s Sulawesi (Celebes) every month.

With the future prospect of the opening of the Arctic shipping route due to melting ice from global warming, Australasia has another route to reach Europe other than the Suez Canal or the Atlantic Ocean routes. The region now exports its commodities to East Asia countries via Makassar Straits.

Darell was the VIP at the recent Sabah Oil and Gas Conference and Exhibition (SOGCE) 2019 dialogue on the last day.

Growing shipping traffic congestion in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore has led to a search for alternative shipping routes. While the Indonesian archipelagic waters have been identified, how viable are these alternative waterways?

Further increase of shipping traffic in the next decade has sparked concerns about traffic congestion in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore.

Alternative shipping routes through the Indonesian archipelagic waters have been identified, three in particular being the Sunda Strait, the Lombok and Makassar Straits and the Ombai-Weitar Straits near the island of Timor.

Vessels may sail through these interconnecting waters under the international regime of Archipelagic Sea Lanes Passage.

The other alternatives to the Straits of Malacca and Singapore are the Lombok and Makassar Straits. The Lombok Strait is wider and deeper than the Straits of Malacca and Singapore. As its depths are greater than 150 metres, it is not draught-limited, and its minimum width is 11.5 miles.

It is therefore used by the largest ships of over 100,000 deadweight tonnage (DWT). Tankers of over 230,000 DWT have to use the deeper Lombok-Makassar route because of the under keel clearance limitation of 3.5 metres and the 23-metre depth of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore.

The Lombok Strait provides a shipping route connecting the Indian Ocean to the Makassar Strait and East Asia via the Sulawesi Sea. The Makassar Strait stretches about 400 nautical miles from its northern gateway to its southern access.

While little east-west traffic transits Lombok-Makassar, it is still an important route for Australian north-south shipping.

Yearly, 420 ships ply the Lombok and Makassar passageway carrying a total of 36 million tonnes of cargo worth US$40 billion.

Even though the Lombok-Makassar route is much safer as it is relatively wide and deep and does not pose significant navigational hazards, it is not as navigationally convenient as the Straits of Malacca and Singapore, if ships sail from the Indian Ocean.

This is because passage along this route consumes more time: a typical voyage from an Arabian Gulf port, Rastanurah, to Yokohama, Japan is about 6,600 nautical miles via the Malacca-Singapore route.

However, the journey by the Lombok-Makassar route would add another 7,500 nautical miles. The route through the Lombok- Makassar Straits would incur an additional shipping cost of between US$84 billion and US$250 billion per year.

As a result, compared to the Straits of Malacca and Singapore route, currently, both the Sunda and Lombok-Makassar passageways are lesser used by international traffic, except to and Australasia and East Asia.

The Strait of Malacca is 600 miles long and provides the main corridor between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea.

The strait is relatively shallow at about 23 metres deep in most points and narrow, 1.5 miles wide at the narrowest point.

Growing oil demand in East Asia projected will increase number of the tanker pass through the strait from 7,723 in 2014 to 11,615 in 2030 and 12,211 in 2040.

Increasing numbers of tankers passing through the strait will increase the risk of safety and security. The Lombok Strait in Indonesia is wider, deeper, and less congested.

It is located between the islands of Bali and Lombok. The minimum passage width of Lombok Strait is 11.5 miles and the depth is greater than 150 metres.

Lombok becomes an alternative and safer route for super tanker. Ships travelling in Lombok Strait usually pass through the Makassar Strait located between Sabah-Kalimantan and Sulawesi.



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