Piracy in Australia’s Neighbours could become threat to Australian trade

It is not often commented upon that the individual state with the highest incidence of piracy in 2016 was Indonesia, writes Nathan Page in the latest The Diplomat. Page examined the risk of piracy to Australian trade should it spread, or relocate, from Indonesia across the border to the Melanesian “arch of instability.” Page observed that half of the world’s total annual seaborne trade passed through the Malacca, Sunda, and Lombok Straits; also that the Asia-Pacific region accounted for more than 40% of global GDP and approximately one-third of the world’s merchandise exports.

He said that a disruption in the Malacca Strait would impact approximately 400 shipping lanes that link 700 ports worldwide. If the Malacca Strait were unavailable, trans-India would need to traverse the Sunda Strait, “which is too shallow for most container ships”. An average speed of 15 knots would add 1.5 days of travel time for docking at Singapore. The Lombok Strait was farther still and would require an additional 3.5 days of travel time. “These kinds of delays would have a significant economic impact on Australia in terms of imports and exports. However, there is little regional coordination planned to combat disruptive piracy”, warned Page.

He said that, if piracy moved east, state fragility in Melanesia was of concern to Australia’s maritime security, as these states pressed against Australia’s exclusive economic zone. “The Torres Strait links the Arafura and Coral Seas and the Vitiaz Strait requires passage through the Coral, Solomon, and Bismarck Seas. Consequently, Australia’s eastern seaboard trade routes are severed by an ‘arch of instability’.”, said Page http://thediplomat.com/2017/07/piracy-in-australias-neighbors/