Members of a large shipowners’ association that rely on the Malacca and Singapore Straits to transport marine freight to the region and around the world this past week sailed through an acrid haze of smoke originating from forest fires in Sumatra, Indonesia.
The Singapore Shipping Association (SSA) is deeply concerned about the effects of worsening hazy conditions on the safe navigation of ships through the straits.
“Whilst shipmasters are competently trained to navigate through very foggy and stormy weathers in other open seas, transiting through the narrow and busy Straits of Malacca and Singapore, however, can be very challenging and dangerous especially under extreme smoky conditions,” the association said in a statement.
SSA is also concerned the smoke from the forest fires will not only contribute to atmospheric pollution but also climate change. The inhalation of the particulate matters from the smoke by seafarers on board the transiting ships is also a serious concern.
The association has urged masters of all ships transiting the straits to take all necessary measures to ensure a safe passage. In addition to paying close attention to safety broadcasts on the relevant VHF channels, masters have also been advised to navigate with caution in accordance with the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea.
Meanwhile, the SSA has asked the Indonesian government to put an end to the indiscriminate “slash and burn” method of land clearing in Sumatra.