Cruising to East Timor


The Portuguese began to trade with the island of Timor in the early 16th century and colonized it in mid-century. Skirmishing with the Dutch in the region eventually resulted in an 1859 treaty in which Portugal ceded the western portion of the island. Imperial Japan occupied East Timor from 1942 to 1945, but Portugal resumed colonial authority after the Japanese defeat in World War II. East Timor declared itself independent from Portugal on 28 November 1975 and was invaded and occupied by Indonesian forces nine days later. It was incorporated into Indonesia in July 1976 as the province of East Timor.

An unsuccessful campaign of pacification followed over the next two decades, during which an estimated 100,000 to 250,000 individuals lost their lives. On 30 August 1999, in a UN-supervised popular referendum, an overwhelming majority of the people of East Timor voted for independence from Indonesia.

Between the referendum and the arrival of a multinational peacekeeping force in late September 1999, anti-independence Timorese militias - organized and supported by the Indonesian military - commenced a large-scale, scorched-earth campaign of retribution. The militias killed approximately 1,400 Timorese and forcibly pushed 300,000 people into West Timor as refugees. The majority of the country's infrastructure, including homes, irrigation systems, water supply systems, and schools, and nearly 100% of the country's electrical grid were destroyed. On 20 September 1999 the Australian-led peacekeeping troops of the International Force for East Timor (INTERFET) deployed to the country and brought the violence to an end. On 20 May 2002, East Timor was internationally recognized as an independent state.


Location: Southeastern Asia, northwest of Australia in the Lesser Sunda Islands at the eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago; note - East Timor includes the eastern half of the island of Timor, the Oecussi (Ambeno) region on the northwest portion of the island of Timor, and the islands of Pulau Atauro and Pulau Jaco
Geographic coordinates: 8 50 S, 125 55 E
Map references: Southeast Asia
Area: total: 15,007 sq km


706 km

Maritime claims

Territorial sea: NA
Exclusive economic zone: NA
Continental shelf: NA
Exclusive fishing zone: NA


Tropical; hot, humid; distinct rainy and dry seasons



Elevation extremes

Lowest point: Timor Sea, Savu Sea, and Banda Sea 0 m
Highest point: Foho Tatamailau 2,963 m


In late 1999, about 70% of the economic infrastructure of East Timor was laid waste by Indonesian troops and anti-independence militias, and 300,000 people fled westward. Over the next three years, however, a massive international program, manned by 5,000 peacekeepers (8,000 at peak) and 1,300 police officers, led to substantial reconstruction in both urban and rural areas. By the end of 2005, all refugees either returned or resettled in Indonesia.

Non-petroleum GDP growth was held back in 2003 by extensive drought and the gradual winding down of the international presence but recovered somewhat in 2004. The country faces great challenges in continuing the rebuilding of infrastructure, strengthening the infant civil administration, and generating jobs for young people entering the work force. The development of oil and gas resources in nearby waters has begun to supplement government revenues ahead of schedule and above expectations - the result of high petroleum prices - but the technology-intensive industry does little to create jobs for the unemployed, because there are no production facilities in Timor and the gas is piped to Australia.

The parliament in June 2005 unanimously approved the creation of a Petroleum Fund to serve as a repository for all petroleum revenues and preserve the value of East Timor's petroleum wealth for future generations.


Airports: 8 (2005)
Airports - with paved runways: total: 3
Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 5
Heliports: 9 (2005)
Roadways: total: 5,000 km

Sailing Specifics: Ports and terminals



UN Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET) has maintained about 1,000 peacekeepers in East Timor since 2002; East Timor-Indonesia Boundary Committee continues to meet, survey, and delimit the land boundary, but several sections of the boundary especially around the Oekussi enclave remain unresolved; Indonesia and East Timor contest the sovereignty of the uninhabited coral island of Pulau Batek/Fatu Sinai, which prevents delimitation of the northern maritime boundaries.

Many refugees who left East Timor in 2003 still reside in Indonesia and refuse repatriation; Australia and East Timor agreed in 2005 to defer the disputed portion of the boundary for 50 years and to split hydrocarbon revenues evenly outside the Joint Petroleum Development Area covered by the 2002 Timor Sea Treaty; dispute with Australia has hampered creation of a southern maritime boundary with Indonesia.   

Other Sailing Destinations in the Region

Brunei - Burma - Cambodia - China - East Timor - Hong Kong - Indonesia - Japan - Macau - Malaysia - North Korea -Philippines - Russia - Singapore - South Korea - Taiwan - Thailand - Vietnam

Further Reading

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