Malaysia on Tuesday called for countries using the Strait of Malacca to help pay for the upkeep, saying foreign shippers save $150 billion a year by using the strategic waterway but do little to protect it.
Only three miles across at its narrowest point and shallow in spots, the strait is the shortest route between the oil fields of the Middle East and the booming economies of East Asia. For Japan, it is an oil lifeline.Calling the strait "the most congested waterway in the world," Malaysian Foreign Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said Malaysia spends millions of
dollars on navigational services and also bears indirect costs from pollution and accidents.
"It is patently unfair to expect the littoral states (Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore) to use national funds to underwrite what is by and large an international responsibility," he told an international conference.
Mr. Abdullah acknowledged that international law forbade a coastal state
from levying a charge on ships passing through its straits and said the affected countries in this case "have no wish to adopt any unilateral decisions."