Marine Electronic Highway (MEH) Demonstration Project in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore

Implementation of the Marine Electronic Highway (MEH) Demonstration Project in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore was given the go ahead in June 2006 following the signing of a US$6.86 million grant agreement (on 19 June) between the Global Environment Facility (GEF)/World Bank and the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

The four-year regional demonstration project aims to link shore-based marine information and communication infrastructure with the corresponding navigational and communication facilities aboard transiting ships, while being also capable of incorporating marine environmental management systems. The overall objectives are to enhance maritime services, improve navigational safety and security and promote marine environment protection and the sustainable development and use of the coastal and marine resources of the Straits' littoral States, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

In addition to the US$6.86 million assigned to IMO for the regional MEH demonstration project, the GEF/World Bank has also agreed to grant US$1.44 million to Indonesia for the procurement of equipment for a differential global positioning system (DGPS) station and automatic ship identification (AIS) stations, as well as tidal instruments and an ocean data buoy.

The MEH is being built upon a network of electronic navigational charts using electronic chart display and information systems (ECDIS) and environmental management tools, all combining in an integrated platform covering the region that allows the maximum of information to be made available both to ships and shipmasters as well as to shore-based users, such as vessel traffic services. The overall system - which would also include positioning systems, real-time navigational information like tidal and current data, as well as providing meteorological and oceanographic information - is designed to assist in the overall traffic management of the Straits and provide the basis for sound marine environmental protection and management.

The implementation of the demonstration project follows a preparatory phase, from 2001 2005, involving IMO, the littoral States and other partners, which was also funded by the GEF/World Bank (amounting to US$473,000).

Start-up activities of the regional component of the MEH demonstration project commence in July 2006 with the recruitment of a Project Manager and consultants to establish the Project Management Office in Batam, Indonesia; preparation of the first Project Steering Committee Meeting, to be held within the year; preparation of bidding documents for various goods and services required by the project; as well as assistance to Indonesia in the procurement of maritime safety facilities. The project's experts will also prepare the bidding document for a hydrographic survey, scheduled to take place in 2007, of the Traffic Separation Scheme of the Malacca Strait Routing System from One Fathom Bank to Pulau Iyu Kecil, using multi-beam technology, with the aim of producing electronic navigation charts of the Straits.

The financial go-ahead for the project from the GEF/World Bank followed the signing, in Jakarta, Indonesia, in September 2005, of agreements to co-operate and collaborate to implement the MEH Project. Signatories to those agreements included the three littoral States, IMO, the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO), the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners (INTERTANKO) and the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS).