In the mid 2000s, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi proved to be more financially conservative with transportation programs than his predecessor, Mahathir Mohamad, whose transportation programs have been criticized as grandiose and costly. Government road-building programs have responded ambitiously to increased private car ownership, but the rail system has changed little since colonial times, with the major exception of Kuala Lumpur’s commuter rail system. Roads and rail lines are concentrated on the peninsula, particularly in populous areas west of the mountains. In East Malaysia, rail service is minimal; roads provide all-weather access among major towns but are rudimentary elsewhere. The Ministry of Transport’s total estimated expenditures were US$400.1 million in fiscal year (FY) 2006, down from US$685 million in FY 2005, or 1.1 percent of total government expenditures in FY2006, also down from 2.2 percent in FY2005.

Bicycle rickshaws, with drivers pedaling from the rear of the rickshaw, and motorcycles with babies balanced on the handlebars used to be fixtures of Malaysian roads. Taxis and bicycle driven by Indians. But more and more cars are taking over the big cities. In rural areas you can still see entire families riding together on little 60cc motorbikes. The most I ever saw was six people on one. The man was in the middle. His wife was in front of him and she was holding a small child who in turn was holding a baby. Some how there was still enough room in the back for the two other children to squeeze on.

Malaysia had 14.8 million registered vehicles in 2005, many of them motorcycles and motorscooters.

Motorbikes and Motorcycles in Malaysia

For many years, motorcycle has been the most preferable, convenient and affordable mode of transport. Motorbike accidents account for 58 percent of fatalities in Malaysia, 61 percent in Indonesia and 62.8 percent in Cambodia.

Motorcycle Vehicle Ownership and Accident Data in Malaysia, 1995 – 2010 (Year, Population, Vehicles Registered, Vehicle Involved, Road Length, Road Accidents, Road Casualties, Road Deaths, Vehicle Ownership (Person per vehicle): A) 1995: 20,096,700, 6,802,375, 275,430, 62,221, 162,491, 52,152, 5,712, 3.0; B) 1996, 21,169,000, 7,686,684, 325,915, 64,511, 189,109, 53,475, 6,304, 2.8; C) 1997, 21,665,600, 8,550,469, 373,526, 66,108, 215,632, 56,574, 6,302, 2.5; D) 1998, 22,179,500, 9,141,357, 366,932, 66,741, 211,037, 55,704, 5,740, 2.4; E) 1999, 22,711,900, 9,929,951, 390,674, 67,069, 223,166, 52,937, 5,794, 2.3; F) 2000, 23,263,600, 10,598,804, 441,386, 68,770, 250,429, 50,200, 6,035, 2.2; G) 2001, 23,795,300, 11,302,545, 483,351, 74,217, 265,175, 50,473, 5,849, 2.1; H) 2002, 24,526,500, 12,068,144, 507,995, 74,641, 279,711, 49,552, 5,891; 2.0 I) 2003, 25,048,300, 12,819,248, 555,634, 79,667, 298,653, 52,741, 6,286, 2.0; J) 2004, 25,580,000, 13,828,889, 596,533, 71,814, 326,815, 54,091, 6,228, 1.8; K) 2005, 26,130,000, 15,026,660, 581,136, 71,814, 328,264, 47,012, 6,200, 1.7; L) 2006, 26,640,000, 15,790,732, 635,024, 72,781, 341,252, 35,425, 6,287, 1.7; M) 2007, 27,170,000, 16,813,943, 668,173, 73,032, 363,319, 33,999, 6,282, 1.6; N) 2008, 27,730,000, 17,971,901, 671,078, 73,419, 373,071, 32,274, 6,527, 1.5 ; 0) 2009, 28,310,000, 19,016,782, 705,623, 100,002, 397,330, 31,417, 6,745, 1.5: 9) 2010, 28,910,000, 20,188,565, 760,433, 111,378, 414,421, 28,269, 6,872, 1.4

Motorbikes and Teenagers in Malaysia

Reporting from Kuala Lumpur, John M. Glionna wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “The traffic light lingered red as the motorcycles congregated at a crowded downtown intersection — engines revving, drivers fidgeting. Dozens more filtered through the idling cars to the makeshift starting line and soon there were 60 cycles in all, buzzing like angry insects. Then the light turned green and chaos ruled. In a renegade roar of noise and smoke, they were off. Teenage girls riding pillion held on tightly as their boyfriends popped wheelies, vying for show space, racing fast and furious into the humid October night. [Source: John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times, November 06, 2006 ^^]

“One rider turned his head back to confront cyclist Wazi Hamid, shooting him a defiant "Can you catch me?" glare before slicing left in front of a lumbering bus and careening in the wrong direction up a one-way side street. "I call it a motorized typhoon!" Hamid shouted over the wind's scream. "Racers love the sound of their bikes — that 'waaaaah, waaaaah!' is music to their ears. As the night goes on, their maneuvers get more dangerous, the stunts get crazier and crazier." ^^

“Across Malaysia, weekend nights are omat rempit time. That's when tens of thousands of omat rempit, or illegal racers, take to the streets in a noisy show of daring, speed and questionable judgment. Factory workers and fry cooks, soldiers and students, these Malaysian Marlon Brando wannabes are typically bored teens with too little money and too much time in this orderly Muslim nation, experts say. ^^

“Police say the omat rempit have grown in number to an estimated 200,000 nationwide, other motorists as they compete for money, prestige and women. The racing scene is a two-wheeled version of Hollywood's "The Fast and the Furious" amped on steroids. Some thrill seekers turn violent and even deadly, authorities say. After a traffic accident with an illegal racer, a motorist was beaten to death in 2005 by a mob of cyclists. This year, omat rempit used their helmets to attack a driver after an accident in which a cyclist was killed.” ^^

“In Malaysia, small but speedy Japanese-made motorcycles are inexpensive, a fraction of the cost of a car. Youths may lack the money for discos or movies, but many can pump 5 ringgit, or less than $2, of gas into their tank and run the streets from dusk till dawn, with cash left over for cigarettes. "The speed is addictive," Hamid said. "You want to be the most skillful. Riders think: 'I'm a very bad man. I want to be the bravest, the best.' " ^^

“Hamid began riding a motorcycle when he was 12. Before long, he was street racing for bragging rights — long before the practice became a national passion.He and other challengers performed stunts such as the "balance of death," riding on only the front tire, and the "highchair wheelie," sitting on the handlebars and leaning back to control the bike. They did headstands on their seats and drove with no hands. They raced on darkened highways without headlights, to see who was braver. "I look back on those days now and feel lucky I didn't get killed," said Hamid ^^

Efforts to Rein in Reckless Malaysian Teenager Bikers

John M. Glionna wrote in the Los Angeles Times, The government has “declared war on the youthful street subculture. Since the races became popular in the mid-1990s, scores of youths have been killed. The fatality rate has surged in recent years, leaving officials wondering, "Why only in Malaysia?" Authorities have imposed heavy fines, jail time and a lifelong driving ban, and they've forced repeat offenders to view the autopsies of crash victims. They've also considered confiscating motorcycles and outlawing the bikes within city limits and at major universities. "The omat rempit are very aggressive, sometimes even criminal," said Shafien Mamat, deputy of traffic enforcement for police here in the capital. "They're a major problem in our country. Motorists are afraid of them." [Source: John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times, November 06, 2006 ^^]

“The slightly built Hamid, a father of four, calls many of the riders "my boys." He said, “You want these racers to stay in every night and play with their baby dolls and wear women's clothing so your streets can be emptier? These kids are not that kind of people. They're athletes and they're proud of who they are." Hamid sponsors several youth programs to defuse the problem: He invites the most skillful riders to join his motorcycle performance team as a way to earn money. For the rest, he offers free two-day seminars on bike safety. "You've got to talk to these kids," he said. "You have to show them some respect, rather than just strong-arm tactics. Increased enforcement should be used as a last resort. You can't destroy a culture just because you don't like it." ^^

“Hamid says all racers are unfairly lumped together as criminals and delinquents. Invited to take part in a recent government seminar on the issue, Hamid said he was the first racer asked to meet with Malaysian ministry officials. Hamid left the scene for the professional racing circuit and now competes throughout Asia and Europe." ^^

Reckless Teenager Bikers Become a Cultural Phenomena in Malaysia

John M. Glionna wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “The racers have also become a cultural phenomenon, inspiring a popular movie as well as a university study that sought to paint a portrait of the cyclists. One political party wants to turn the races into a tourist attraction. Rozmi Ismail, a psychologist at the National University of Malaysia who interviewed scores of omat rempit for the 2002 study, calls the practice a coming-of-age ritual. "It's a social rebellion," he said, "kids saying, 'We don't care about your laws.' " [Source: John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times, November 06, 2006 ^^]

“Many illegal races are underground events akin to American rave parties, complete with sponsors who put up prize money. Others are spontaneous face-offs triggered by a stare or a challenge at an intersection. "This is Malaysia's showoff culture — kids risking their lives for attention," the researcher said. "At age 18 they're all invincible, right?" Ahmad Idham, who directed the 2006 film "Remp-It," sought to show the racing culture for what it is: an exhilarating, sometimes deadly sideshow. "I didn't try to make these racers into supermen. They're just kids expressing their dissatisfaction with society through racing," he said. "Their skills are incredible. But in the end, one mistake and you die. And nobody cares about you anymore." ^^

“Wazi Hamid insists Malaysian society has misjudged the young motorcyclists. The 35-year-old former street-racer-turned-professional-motorcyclist has emerged as the maligned youth culture's biggest defender. Hamid says the daredevil stunts suggest a deeper societal problem: blue-collar youth who feel ignored by their own culture. "It's a last resort of underprivileged kids with nothing to do and nowhere to go," he said.” ^^

A Night Out for Reckless Teenager Malaysian Bikers

John M. Glionna wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “On a recent Saturday night, Hamid toured downtown streets saturated with the acrid odor of thousands of motorcycles. By night's end, a 21-year-old would be stabbed to death in an early-morning face-off between omat rempit. Outside Kuala Lumpur, two 15-year-olds were killed during a race on a rural back road. Neither boy had a driver's license, police said. [Source: John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times, November 06, 2006 ^^]

“But at midnight, the night was still young. Near City Hall, several riders parked their cycles on the sidewalk. With sullen looks, they watched other racers storm a 10-block circuit with reckless abandon, many ignoring the traffic lights in a heated hurry to go nowhere. When asked about it, a cabdriver moved a hand frantically back and forth like a motorcycle moving through traffic: "Zip, zip, zip, zip. Why? Motorcyclists used to have to look out for cars. Now we have to watch out for them." ^^

“Nearby, two young men slouched atop a 110-cc Honda to watch the action. Joehan Mohammed, 20, works two jobs, as a dispatch driver and restaurant worker. He called racing a release from the real world. "I work hard — this is my freedom," he said. "On my bike, I can go anywhere." His best friend, Wan Johari, also 20, frowned. "The police treat us all like criminals," said the woodworker, cigarette in hand, baseball cap worn backward. "That's not who I am." ^^

“Within minutes, two police officers approached the men, demanding licenses and insurance papers. They threatened to confiscate their bikes unless the riders moved. Hamid shook his head in disapproval. "They're just young — is it a crime to be young? I know that woodworker. He's a creative kid. Why don't Malaysian authorities try and get to know him, help him get through those uncomfortable years between 18 and 25 and emerge a healthy adult? "Instead, what do they do? They get out their ticket books." Not far away, a traffic light turned green and another race was on.” ^^

Motorcycle Automobile Accidents in Malaysia

Jahabar Sadiq of Reuters wrote: “In 2005, 6 188 people died in road accidents in Malaysia, 60 per cent of them motorcyclists. In the first half of 2006 alone, 3 137 people were killed with 1 818 being either motorcyclists or pillion riders. Most accidents are unrelated to alcohol abuse. Young male motorcyclists are often high on nothing more than adrenaline. ADRENALINE "It is exhilarating to race down a road. [Source: Jahabar Sadiq, Reuters, September 28, 2006 ^^]

“All I need is just a few ringgit for fuel and I can have the time of my life," dispatch rider Amir Fairuz told Reuters as he prepared for an illegal street race on a Friday night. He is among the hundreds of motorcyclists who gather every weekend in Kuala Lumpur to race each other or just roam in packs along expressways and city streets, performing dangerous tricks at high speed, some of them without helmets. ^^

“Illegal racers dice with death in the hope of winning up to 3000 ringgit (about N$6 300) in prize money or sometimes a girl for the night. For some of these hard-core daredevils, taking drugs is standard before pushing their cheap bikes beyond the limit, reaching speeds of around 160 kph. Some of these young men end up in the care of neurosurgeon Mathaneswaran, whose facility treats about 100 accident cases a month. He is frustrated at such preventable suffering. "The vaccine is simple. It is road safety," he said. ^^

“The statistics also show that most of those injured or killed are youths aged between 16 and 25, the most productive time of life, he added. Each death, he said, cost the country about 1,2 million ringgit and totalled some 9 billion ringgit a year. "The problem we have is that our road-users are not mature unlike in other countries. Those countries have had a motoring culture for nearly a century but our road-users are relatively newer to motoring," Singh said.” ^^

Motorcycle Safety in Malaysia

Jahabar Sadiq of Reuters wrote: “Malaysia's road safety director, Suret Singh, said curbing road accidents needs a comprehensive approach. "They are the young and the reckless. We need to instil road safety culture in them," Singh told Reuters in an interview. Authorities plan to spend some 100 million ringgit up to 2010 to create road safety awareness. An immediate plan to drive down the death rate is to issue a million crash helmets to youths and those too poor to afford them, particularly in rural areas where enforcement is low. Crash helmets are mandatory by law but they are rarely seen on motorcyclists outside urban areas. [Source: Jahabar Sadiq, Reuters, September 28, 2006 ^^]

“Road Safety The government has also launched an awareness campaign on television, print media and billboards to get motorists to belt up in vehicles and to strap on helmets while astride motorcycles. The awareness campaign is among 52 programmes for road safety over the next five years, Singh said, adding a nationwide camera surveillance system was also planned for early 2007 to get motorists to obey traffic rules. ^^

“Research from Malaysia's Universiti Putra shows most road-users only complied with traffic rules to avoid being caught by police rather than for safety concerns. "We want to change the road users' mindset," Singh said, adding the ultimate goal was to reduce the number of road deaths from 4.2 per 10 000 registered vehicles in 2005 to 2.0 in 2010. ^^

“He said authorities had noticed a change in behaviour when enforcement was stepped up, particularly during festive seasons when the daily death rate dropped slightly. Other strategies included higher insurance premiums for high-risk road users. The government is also looking at building safety into the design of roads, including separate lanes for motorcycles. "What we want to do is to ensure that if an accident happens, the road-user will only be injured, not killed," Singh said. ^^

Railroads in Malaysia

Railways: total: 1,849 kilometers, country comparison to the world: 75; standard gauge: 57 kilometers 1.435-meter gauge (57 kilometers electrified); narrow gauge: 1,792 kilometers 1.000-m gauge (150 kilometers electrified) (2008). [Source: CIA World Factbook]

Malaysia’s rail system has changed little since independence, largely because of difficult terrain and poor funding. The sole rail freight operator is government-owned Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTMB), which is operated on a cost-recovery basis. In 2004 KTMB had 164 locomotives, 190 passenger coaches, and 3,509 freight wagons. In 2006 there were 2,262 kilometers of rail lines, including 2,128 kilometers in Peninsular Malaysia. The peninsula has two main rail lines, both of which link to the State Railway of Thailand: a 787-kilometer line between Singapore and Butterworth and a 528-kilometer line along the east coast. Rail gauge and electrification data vary, but about 90 percent of rail lines are 1.000-meter gauge, and fewer than 10 percent are electrified. The only commuter rail system is in Kuala Lumpur; it is composed of five separately managed rail services, including a monorail, an automated line, and a 160-kilometer-per-hour express line that serves Kuala Lumpur International Airport. From 1997 to 2005, the system’s average daily ridership grew from nearly 47,000 to 433,000.

In late 2003, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi canceled one Mahathir‘s most cherished pet projects: the $3.8 billion cross-Malaysia railroad project, Malaysia’s largest infrastructure program. The contract to build it had been award to a Mahathir crony.

Often Japanese train cars and engines are still in pretty good condition when they are retired and can still be used. The long-distance sleepers cars from long distance Ginga sleeper train and the overnight Moonlight Express train, both recently retired, were given to Malaysia as a gift after a request from the Malaysian government. “They are still fully active enough to run. I hope they will perform brilliantly, while being taken good care of’’ by the Malaysians, a JR West official said. [Source: Japan Today, October 2010]

Roads in Malaysia

Roadways: total: 98,721 kilometers, country comparison to the world: 42. Paved: 80,280 kilometers (includes 1,821 kilometers of expressways). Unpaved: 18,441 kilometers (2004). [Source: CIA World Factbook]

From 1995 to 2005, total road length increased from 61,380 kilometers to 77,673 kilometers. Most roads (67.7 percent) are in Peninsular Malaysia, but the government has increased funding for roads in East Malaysia. The private sector was heavily involved in road building until the 1997 economic crisis, and the government funded completion of some major projects. Still, many new roads are tolled and administered by companies with government links. In 2005 there were 6.5 million registered automobiles, 7 million registered motorcycles, and approximately 1.3 million other registered vehicles, including taxis and buses; nearly 90 percent were registered in Peninsular Malaysia.

Trucks on road near Mersing zoom by with 40 foot long logs, some of the logs are five feet thick. The only animals you see are dead ones on the road.

Automobiles in Malaysia

Foreign cars brought to Malaysia are often cut in half before being brought into the country to avoid duty charges. They cars are then welded back together.

Malaysia is the home of Southeast Asia's largest passenger car market. In 2012, new auto sales in Malaysia grew 4.6 percent to hit a record high, with a total of 627,753 vehicles sold. It was also the third consecutive year that the TIV had breached the 600,000-unit level, according to data from the Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA).Passenger vehicle sales increased 3.2 percent year-on-year to 552,189 units, while commercial vehicle sales jumped 16.2 percent to 75,564 units. [Source: Thomas Huong, The Star, January 24, 2013]

Thomas Huong wrote in The Star: “MAA president Datuk Aishah Ahmad said the record new vehicle sales in 2012 was due to factors such as strong economic growth, the implementation of infrastructure projects under the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), increased consumer spending and consumption due to stable employment and rising disposable income, introduction of new models at competitive prices as well as aggressive sales campaigns by car companies.

Aishah also said the Malaysian auto industry had performed well despite challenges in the early part of 2012 such as the aftermath of the Thailand floods, which impacted the automotive supply chain, and the implementation of Bank Negara's responsible lending guidelines. Aishah also noted that in 2012, sales of hybrid cars had jumped 84 percent to 15,355 units (compared with 8,334 units in 2011). The hybrid car sales came from four marques, namely, Toyota (5,653 units), Lexus (979 units), Honda (8,712 units) and Porsche (11 units).

In July 2010, Associated Press reported: “Malaysia's auto sales rose a stronger-than-expected 20 percent in the first six months of 2010 and are expected to hit a record high this year despite higher interest rates and a fuel price hike, an industry group said. Sales in Southeast Asia's largest passenger car market rose to 301,077 vehicles in the January-June period, up from 251,305 a year earlier and the highest ever for a six-month period, the Malaysian Automotive Association said. Compact car maker Perodua retained its leadership with a market share of 31.5 percent, followed by national carmaker Proton with a 26.6 percent share. Japanese carmaker Toyota Motor Corp. secured 14.8 percent of the market, followed by Honda Motor Co. with 7.4 percent and Nissan Motor Co. with 5.8 percent. [Source: Associated Press July 20, 2010]

In July 2010, the government cut fuel subsidies by about 3 percent to curb its fiscal deficit and said more hikes are expected. That raised the gasoline price to 58 cents a liter and diesel to 55 cents a liter. Aishah said gasoline price is still the cheapest in the region despite the hike, compared to $1.30 in Thailand, 78 cents in Indonesia and $2.10 in the Philippines. Some customers may opt for smaller fuel-efficient cars but it is unlikely to hurt car sales if the fuel price hikes are gradual, she said. [Source: Associated Press July 20, 2010]

see Proton, Under Industries

Car Mania in Malaysia

Towle Tompkins wrote in the New York Times, “Malaysia, like much of Asia, is slightly car crazy. It’s reminiscent of California in the 1960s, when racing and cool cars were prominent components of the culture. But in Malaysia the soundtrack is less the Beach Boys’ “Little Deuce Coupe” and more Rihanna’s “Shut Up and Drive.” Video games like Grand Prix Challenge and Forza Motorsport, plus the expansion of Formula One racing into Japan, China, Turkey and Malaysia, have helped to fuel the passion. In return, Asia-grown automotive pursuits like drifting, where competitors try to slide their cars sideways in a half dozen consecutive drifts, have found popularity in America. [Source: Towle Tompkins, New York Times, November 11, 2007 +++]

“Malaysians, however, don’t have an easy time indulging their automotive desires, and are more often spectators than participants. The biggest hurdle is the country’s per person purchasing power parity, which was $12,900 in 2006 compared with $44,000 in the United States. Basic transportation like the Proton Persona sedan costs about $14,000, about the same as a Mazda 3 in the United States, but takes a higher percentage of the average income. Step up to, say, a BMW 325i and the base price is more than $87,650 in Malaysia versus the equivalent model, the 328i, at $33,175 in the United States. +++

“The streets of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital and largest city, teem with motorcycles and mopeds as well as econobox Protons, Toyotas, Hondas, Kias, Nissans and Peugeots. This makes significantly more expensive Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Lexus and Lotus models stand out like truffles on a deli platter. Yet the high cost of buying an automobile in Malaysia hasn’t stopped at least a local niche manufacturer from entering the market.” +++

Automobile Accidents in Malaysia

Malaysia has a high driving fatality rate. In the mid 2000s, nearly 900 accidents were reported daily nationwide, causing an average of 17 deaths, per day, according to government statistics. That is quite a lot considering Malaysia has only 23 million people and many people don’t have cars. Around 200 ro 300 people die during the time of the Hari Raya Eid al-Fitr Muslim festival. One parliament member said he was surprised how normally polite Malaysians could be such “animals” when they drove and said “we should study why Malaysians act so rough when driving.” According to to United Nations data Malaysia is the 30th most-dangerous country in terms of fatal road accidents, with an average of 4.2 deaths per 10 000 registered vehicles.

Jahabar Sadiq of Reuters wrote: “Malaysia's neurosurgeons, bartenders and nightclub bouncers all have something in common: they are all busiest on weekends. Every weekend, neurosurgeons here operate on hundreds of motorcyclists, car drivers and passengers brought into hospital emergency rooms with head injuries suffered on some of the world's most dangerous roads. Many of them do not survive and join a toll of about 17 people killed on average every day on Malaysia's roads. [Source: Jahabar Sadiq, Reuters, September 28, 2006]

"Cancer and HIV-AIDS might hog the headlines but road accidents are the biggest killer in Malaysia," Kuala Lumpur neurosurgeon Professor Vickneswaran Mathaneswaran told Reuters. Malaysia has built a web of high-speed motorways over the past 20 years as it races toward its goal of developed-country status by 2020, but road safety is still stuck in the slow lane. Overcrowded cars hurtle along roads at more than 100 kph. Rarely are the occupants buckled. Toddlers often crawl around unrestrained in the front passenger seat. Motorcyclists take the most risks, weaving through city traffic at high speed, their helmets unfastened if worn at all.

Online “Hall of Shame” in Malaysia to Catch Traffic Offenders

In July 2005, the Press Trust of India and Associated Press reported: “Malaysia has set up an online “Hall of Shame” where the public can post pictures of traffic offenders as part of a campaign to instill discipline and safety on roads. The website,, was launched on Tuesday and will be used to catch offenders who usually get away because of a lack of enforcement, said Transport Minister Chan Kong Choy. Pandu cermat in the local Malayu language means drive carefully.People can upload pictures of violators snapped with cell phones or digital cameras, Chan said. We will redirect the photos and details to the road transport department or traffic police for action, he said. [Source: Press Trust of India/AP, July 20, 2005]

“It is not clear how the site administrators can identify doctored pictures or how officials will verify the authenticity of the shots. Despite having first class road infrastructure, Malaysian motorists like their counterparts in many Asian countries are notorious for speeding, beating traffic lights, jumping queues and ignoring pedestrian crossings. The website is the latest in a series of steps planned by the government to reduce the figure. Chief among them is a plan to install high tech cameras along highways, traffic light junctions and other accident prone stretches. The government also plans to build watch towers on highways so that police can more easily spot negligent drivers.

Ships, Boats and Waterways in Malaysia

Inland and Coastal Waterways: Malaysia has approximately 7,200 kilometers of waterways: 3,200 kilometers in Peninsular Malaysia, 1,500 kilometers in Sabah, and 2,500 kilometers in Sarawak. Rivers and tributaries are of only marginal significance on the peninsula, but they are a major means of transportation in Sabah and Sarawak. As a result of high, year-round precipitation, rivers never run dry and are nearly always navigable, although silting often limits navigation to canoes and rafts.

Merchant marine: total: 315, country comparison to the world: 31. By type: bulk carrier 11, cargo 83, carrier 2, chemical tanker 47, container 41, liquefied gas 34, passenger/cargo 4, petroleum tanker 86, roll on/roll off 2, vehicle carrier 5. Foreign-owned: 26 (Denmark 1, Hong Kong 8, Japan 2, Russia 2, Singapore 13) Registered in other countries: 82 (Bahamas 13, India 1, Indonesia 1, Isle of Man 6, Malta 1, Marshall Islands 11, Panama 12, Papua New Guinea 1, Philippines 1, Saint Kitts and Nevis 1, Singapore 27, Thailand 3, US 2, unknown 2) (2010). Ports and terminals: Bintulu, Johor Bahru, George Town (Penang), Port Kelang (Port Klang), Tanjung Pelepas. [Source: CIA World Factbook]

the International Maritime Bureau reports that the territorial and offshore waters in the Strait of Malacca and South China Sea remain high risk for piracy and armed robbery against ships; in the past, commercial vessels have been attacked and hijacked both at anchor and while underway; hijacked vessels are often disguised and cargo diverted to ports in East Asia; crews have been murdered or cast adrift; increased naval patrols since 2005 in the Strait of Malacca resulted in no reported incidents in 2010.

Ports are an important element of Malaysia’s foreign trade-dependent economy. Since the early 1990s, the government has undertaken many projects to improve port operations and enlarge capacity in all 93 ports. The Ministry of Transportation administers seven “federal” ports, all privatized except Kemaman. The states of Sabah and Sarawak administer 16 “state” ports, and the Marine Department manages 70 “minor” ports, including one private port (Teluk Ewa). The ports with the highest cargo volumes are Bintulu, Pasir Gudang (Johor), Port Dickson, Pulau Pinang (Penang), Sabah, and Port Klang (Kelang), the nation’s designated transshipment port. From 1996 to 2005, the amount of cargo handled by larger ports grew from 152.3 million tonnes to 369.4 million tonnes, and containerized cargo increased from 2.1 million twenty-foot-equivalent-units (TEUs) to 12.1 million TEUs.

Boat Accidents

No one was hurt when the cruise liner Sun Vista caught fire and sank 50 miles off the coast of Penang in 1999. All 1,104 passengers were loaded onto life boats and rescued. One passenger in the cruise ship that sunk said, "The first thing that flashed in my mind was" 'Oh my God is this the Titanic?"

Accidents in the Malacca Strait, which separates peninsular Malaysia from Indonesia's Sumatra island, are rare even though some 70,000 vessels use the waterway annually. However they do occur

In August 2009, nine dead Chinese sailors were found after tanker fire in the Malacca Strait. Associated Press reported: “Malaysian rescuers recovered the charred remains of nine Chinese sailors who went missing after an oil tanker caught fire after colliding with another vessel, a marine official said. The bodies of two crew members trapped in the Liberian-registered Formasaproduct Brick were found Friday and another seven on Saturday, First Adm. Tan Kok Kwee of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency said. The tanker was carrying more than 50,000 tons of naphtha from the United Arab Emirates to South Korea when a Britain-registered bulk carrier rammed into its rear late Tuesday in the Malacca Strait, one of the world's busiest shipping lanes. Firefighters took more than 30 hours to put out the blaze. Rescue efforts were hindered by rough sea conditions and salvage work to stabilize the ship, officials said. Tan said there was no spillage and marine authorities would assess the damage before releasing the vessel. [Source: Associated Press, August 23 2009]

Reuters reported: “A tanker carrying some 58,000 tonnes of naphtha was involved in a collision with a cargo ship in the Strait of Malacca.The official from the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) said there was no danger of oil spill from the tanker, Formosaproduct Brick, which was still on fire after the incident, but shipping in the busy waterway was not disrupted.The Liberian registered tanker with 25 crew, caught fire after the collision with the Ostende Max, a British registered bulk carrier ship. The collision occurred at 10:00 p.m. (1400 GMT) in international waters at the Straits bordering Malaysia and Indonesia. "We have towed the tanker to the edge of international shipping lines 18 nautical miles (33 kilometres) offshore from Port Dickson and alerted all vessels in the area, so there is no disruption or delays to shipping in the Straits," said the official. [Source: Reuters, August 19, 2009]

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated June 2015

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