Publication Details

Mohd Rusli, M. and Mohamad, R. (2014). A priceless maritime heritage. News Straits Times Online, (28 July),

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News Straits Times Online


THE Straits of Malacca and Singapore Strait have been vital shipping routes for international trade for hundreds of years. The region around the Straits of Malacca and Singapore Strait is steeped in a long and continuous history of trade, shipping, colonisation and the race towards attaining political and economic supremacy, both before and during the age of European dominion.

The Straits of Malacca was initially known as the “Sea of Malayu”. The first reference to the “Sea of Malayu” was from an Arabic document dating back to the 9th century AD, noting the Malay influence in the region. Both the Straits of Malacca and Singapore Strait were largely responsible for the emergence and downfall of various kingdoms along their length, some of which did develop into regional maritime empires and important trading centres.

Srivijaya, Majapahit and Malacca were great kingdoms of the past that used to dominate this region. Malacca prospered until 1511 as a crucial link in world trade. It was said that the city of Malacca was as large as other European cities at that time, such as Naples and Paris. The profound influence of the Malacca sultanate, which dominated the straits for over a century, is evident with the name the Straits of Malacca carries up to this day.