Incorporating the Andaman Sea, Gulf of Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia… and more

Southeast Asia Pilot by Bill O’Leary & Andy Dowden

Malaysia West Malaysia, West Coast Malacca (Melaka)

Racer MarinaSailing Yacht AsiaIMAGE asia

The Malacca Straits is one of the most important shipping lanes in the world. The southern entrance starts just north of Singapore and connects the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Over 100,000 ships trading a quarter of the world\'s goods pass through this narrow 450-mile thoroughfare every year. With so much commercial traffic, a good watch is essential day and night.

Navigation is not difficult with only a few shallow areas, which are well buoyed and lit. Stay clear of the traffic separation zone keeping a watch for the floating debris, numerous fishing buoys, bamboo structures and gill nets on the shallower banks. At night floating nets are lit with flashing red strobes so keep a good watch and maintain your ability to maneuver quickly. Once a gill net is tangled up around a prop or rudder, complete removal sometimes means a swim with a sharp knife.

Piracy in the Malacca Straits is a much-discussed issue. Cargo ship incidents peaked in 2003 with over 150 vessels reporting being boarded that year. Regional marine police and navies stepped up their patrols from 2004 and all but wiped out the trade. There have been some isolated problems in recent years with commercial shipping, but very few reports of harassment of pleasure yachts over the past 20 years. Fast patrol boats from both countries police the area and may be encountered in their respective waters.

The passage through the Straits can be a slog. With the relentless commercial shipping, brown water, strong currents, floating debris, fishing nets and lack of safe havens we generally suggest yachts get through quickly.

However, there are a few interesting places to stop on the Malaysian side along the way. From Singapore north to Malacca Town we suggest five anchorages before the main cargo port of Klang, with a yacht club close to the airports and the amenities of the capital city, Kuala Lumpur. Moving north we suggest anchorages and marinas at Pangkor and Penang Islands before reaching Langkawi, the real jewel of this coast with so many anchorages. It has its own section.

Entry procedures and visas

Ships\' documents and valid passports for all crew members must be carried to gain entry into Malaysia. Most international visitors will be granted a tourist visa on entry. This is valid for 60 days and extendable by up to three months.

Yachts entering Malaysian waters on the Malacca Straits side should proceed to the nearest port of entry.

From Singapore north these are Puteri Harbour past the bridge in the Johor Strait, Malacca, Port Dickson, Port Klang, Lumut, Penang and Langkawi.

Yachts entering the South China Sea from Singapore can clear into Malaysia at two ferry terminals with Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) facilities. These are located in the East Johor Strait seven miles from Changi Village at Tanjung Belungkor Ferry Terminal in the mangrove channel north of Pulau Tekong and at Pengileh Ferry Terminal Pengarang east of Pulau Tekong just south of the Malaysian Navy base.

Opportunities to check in further up the Malaysian coast are located at Kuantan, Kuala Terengganu and Kota Bharu.

Yachts making passage past ports on either coast are unlikely to be challenged as long as ships papers are in order and they are heading for Thailand or another local port of entry. Visiting yachts should report to Marine Harbourmaster, Immigration, and Customs in that order.

On leaving the port, this process needs to be repeated and a port clearance document for the vessel and crew obtained even if you are heading for another destination in Malaysia. Most officers will facilitate both on the same day if required.

Yachts can be left periodically in Malaysian marinas and the formalities involved are relatively simple.

While every effort has been made to ensure that the information contained in this book is accurate, the charts of anchorages are based on personal experience and satellite imagery and are intended as a guide only. They should not be used for navigation. Please refer to Official Hydrographic Charts of the respective countries.

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