Strait to Hell
Another of the most dangerous and feared waterways is the Strait of Malacca, located between the Indonesian island of Sumatra and the Malaysian peninsula. With over 600 miles of waterways, Malacca serves as the primary shipping lane between the Pacific and Indian Oceans, where literally hundreds of ships — including oil tankers — sail its waters on a daily basis. Over a third of the world's trade is carried through the Strait, its waterway as narrow as two nautical miles in some areas. In addition to being a bottleneck of maritime commerce traffic, Malacca is an irresistible lure to modern pirates. A persistent haze in the area coupled with numerous islands and potential hiding places has resulted in all manner of pirate attacks including general robbery, terrorism, and the kidnapping of crews and vessels in exchange for ransom.
Captains of oil tankers must be vigilant while maneuvering through narrow areas such as Malacca, in order to avoid running aground and causing catastrophic oil spills. Pirates capturing tankers have been known to tie up entire crews and leave a ship running full steam ahead while they escape.
As a result of pirate activity, international governments have been forced to work together to curtail attacks on their ships and personnel. Some nations, like the United States, refuse to negotiate or pay ransom to terrorists, a practice which in this case serves to further complicate matters. Adding to the mix are the natural disasters that the Malacca area has suffered in the past, including Indonesia's 2004 tsunami and various earthquakes in the Sumatra region. After initial recovery from those disasters, piracy returned with a vengeance once international security forces protecting the regions dissipated. Many of the area's indigenous security forces and military aren't technologically equipped to handle the onslaught of pirates in the Strait, an issue that is in urgent need of resolution given the number of nations whose vessels sail through the area.