Regime building in the Malacca and Singapore straits: Two steps forward, one step back

Sam Bateman


This article reviews progress toward an effective regime for maritime safety, security, and environmental protection in the Malacca and Singapore straits. Recent steps forward comprise enhanced arrangements for cooperative surveillance and patrols by the littoral states, and the introduction of the Cooperative Mechanism for Safety and Environmental Protection in the straits sponsored by the International Maritime Organization. The latter mechanism provides a framework for cooperation and burden-sharing between littoral states, user states, and other stakeholders. A step back arises when difficulties are encountered with implementing new measures, or these measures are inhibited by the strong sovereignty concerns of the littoral states. This review of regime-building in the Malacca and Singapore straits provides an insight into the role of transnational institutions and governance structures aimed at ensuring regional peace and stability. Despite lingering difficulties, the institutions and structures being introduced in the straits are having some success at enhancing security and safety along one of the most strategically and economically significant waterways in the world.


Regime building; maritime security; conflict resolution; national security

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