The Singapore Shipping Association is “gravely concerned” about the effects of worsening hazy conditions on the safety of ship navigation in the Malacca and Singapore straits region.
During the past week, smoky haze coming from forest fires in Sumatra, Indonesia, has blanketed the Strait of Malacca and Singapore Strait, as well as Malaysia and Singapore. Although the haze is a common problem for the region at this time of year, according to the SSA, the Pollutant Standards Index has hit an all-time high of 401, which means the smoke is considered hazardous to health. Visibility has also dropped “significantly,” SSA said.
“The straits of Malacca and Singapore are among the busiest and narrowest shipping lanes in the world,” said Daniel Tan, executive director of SSA, in a written statement. “Reduced visibility in such heavy shipping traffic will definitely affect the safe navigation of ships in the straits.”
“The passage through the straits is further complicated by the many smaller barter trading ships and also passenger ships in cross-strait traffic,” he added.
Furthermore, government officials from Singapore have expressed their concerns about the situation to Indonesian officials, emphasizing the urgency of the situation and reaffirming their commitment to help Indonesia fight the fires in Sumatra.
Indonesia's foreign affairs minister said the country’s government is doing what it can to address the problem but will not apologize to Singapore, The Jakarta Post reports. The Indonesian government has declared a state of emergency in the province of Riau.