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Critical for straits of Malacca and Singapore to remain open, safe and clean: Khaw Boon Wan

EVERY year, more than 80,000 vessels pass through the Straits of Malacca and Singapore, carrying a third of the world's traded goods.

One-sixth of the world's total oil supply also passes through the same waters, said Mr Khaw Boon Wan, Co-ordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Minister for Transport.

It is thus critical that these straits remain "open, safe and clean", he said at the 11th Cooperation Forum - one of the three pillars of the Co-operative Mechanism on Safety of Navigation and Environmental Protection in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore.

The forum is the main avenue for Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, and the international maritime community to address issues of common concern, exchange information and share perspectives on important issues relating to the straits.

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While it is important to address today's problems, the focus must also be to anticipate and address future challenges, Mr Khaw said at the opening of the two-day forum at Grand Hyatt Hotel on Monday.

One such challenge is to keep pace with rapid technological advancements and fully harness their benefits, he said.

Said Mr Khaw: "For example, technology can make shipping safer, through the use of sensors and other sophisticated systems on board ships. But there is still scope to eliminate navigational accidents."

In this regard, the adoption of e-navigation is an important initiative, he said.

Another challenge is to make shipping clean and sustainable.

Mr Khaw stressed that this requires the collective commitment and cooperation of all stakeholders.

"Let us stay focused on our common goal, to keep the Straits of Malacca and Singapore safe and clean, and open for all users," he told about 180 participants from around 80 maritime administrations and organisations, as well as embassies in Singapore.

They included Mr Agus Purnomo, director-general of sea transportation in Indonesia's Ministry of Transportation and Mr Baharin Abdul Hamid, director-general of Malaysia's marine department.

THE STRAITS TIMES