Indon marines conduct anti-terrorism drillPublished March 9, 2006  
  Jakarta says action shows troop readiness to counter attacks in Malacca Strait
(BATAM) Indonesian marines launched an anti-terrorism drill in the
Sharpening skills: Indonesian marines
arresting a 'terrorist' played by their
colleague aboard a passenger ferry during
the anti-terrorism drill yesterday
Strait of Malacca yesterday, storming a ship to free hundreds of
passengers held hostage by men posing as Islamic militants.
Fifteen servicemen pretending to be terrorists from the regional
militant group Jemaah Islamiyah boarded the state-owned Kelud and
threatened to blow it up unless their jailed comrades were
released from Indonesian prisons. The 1,400 passengers aboard the
Kelud - on a scheduled trip from the Indonesian city Medan to the
capital Jakarta - had been informed of the drill.
An elite unit of 25 marines parachuted into the strait from a Hercules C-130 aircraft and approached the
ship on rubber rafts, using ropes and grappling hooks to board it.
Another group parachuted onto the ship's deck, while a third was dropped on board by helicopter - freeing
the hostages and retaking control of the vessel within 20 minutes.
Three terrorists were 'killed' in the process. The Malacca Strait, which lies between the Indonesian island
of Sumatra, Malaysia and Singapore, is among the world's busiest shipping lanes. Western and Asian governments
have expressed concern that the vital seaway could be targeted by terrorists.
'This training shows the capabilities of these troops to be alert against terrorist attacks in Indonesian
waters and in the busy lane of the Malacca Strait,' said Colonel Alfan Badarudin, who supervised the drill.
Jemaah Islamiyah, a South-east Asian spin-off of Al Qaida, has launched several land-based terrorist attacks
across Indonesia, most recently on the resort island of Bali last October.
Security analysts have posed a doomsday scenario where terrorists sink a vessel in one of the Malacca
Strait's narrow channels to block commercial shipping, or hijack an oil tanker and blow it up near shore.
Indonesia and Malaysia have both rejected suggestions by the United States to have an American
counterterrorism unit based in the area, but both countries agreed to conduct joint naval patrols with
Singapore and improve their anti-terrorism capabilities.
Indonesia has carried out a series of ocean counterterrorism drills, and more than 250 marines participated
in yesterday's operation. - AP
M'sian police cripple pirate gangs in Malacca Strait: reportPublished March 13, 2006
(KUALA LUMPUR) Malaysian police have crippled four gangs of pirates preying on ships in the Malacca Strait
in ongoing operations to maintain security in the waterway, local media said yesterday.
Deputy Inspector-General of Police Musa Hassan was quoted as saying the enforcement efforts had reduced
the incidence of piracy in the strait.
Marine police were also providing escorts to tug boats or ships using the strait upon their request,
he said.
'There is no doubt our enforcement has reduced piracy attacks in the strait and we have made quite a
number of arrests,' he was quoted as saying by Bernama news agency.
He said some of the arrests were kept under wraps because of ongoing operations. He did not elaborate
with further details of the arrests.
The Malacca Strait, separating the Indonesian island of Sumatra and peninsular Malaysia, is one of the
world's most important waterways, with 50,000 ships carrying about one-third of world trade passing
through it each year.
It is also notoriously vulnerable to pirate attacks.
Malaysia last year set up a coast guard unit to boost security in the waterway.
Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore have also launched joint military air patrols to aid efforts to
counter piracy and terrorism in the area. - AFP
Tanker rates to Asia may fall on April demand Published March 15, 2006
(LONDON) The cost of shipping crude oil from the Middle East to Asia on 2 million-barrel tankers,
little changed for a second week, may fall as charterers wait for Persian Gulf producers to release
loading dates of April exports.
Most oil exported from Middle East suppliers such as Saudi Arabia, the world's largest, and Iran is
sold on annual contracts. Producers release dates of when cargoes are scheduled to load on tankers
a month in advance so buyers can make shipping arrangements.
'Most of the dates for April cargoes will be out towards the end of the week so I doubt that we will
see much demand for tonnage before then,' said Christian Arentz Grastvedt, a broker at Johan G Olsen
Shipbrokers in Kristiansand, Norway.
'Besides, charterers are not rushing to book before getting the dates and there are enough ships to
meet demand anyway.'
There were no bookings for very large crude carriers, or VLCCs, on the benchmark route to Japan or the
US yesterday, according to shipbrokers' reports.
Rates, measured in the market's Worldscale point standard, were on Monday assessed to Japan at
WS 87.5, or US$1.75 a barrel, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. To the US, rates were yesterday
at WS 87.5, or US$2.65 a barrel.
Worldscale points are a percentage of a nominal rate, or so-called flat rate, for a specific route.
Flat rates, quoted in US dollars a tonne, are revised annually by the Worldscale Association, based
in London and New York, to reflect changing fuel costs, port tariffs and exchange rates.
'I expect activity to pick up next week,' Mr Arentz Grastvedt said.
Freight rates for VLCCs have fallen 14 per cent in the past month. Transport costs usually decline
in March as the end of the northern hemisphere's winter cuts demand for heating oil. - Bloomberg