Cruising to Malaysia
During the late 18th and 19th centuries, Great Britain established colonies and protectorates in the area of current Malaysia; these were occupied by Japan from 1942 to 1945. In 1948, the British-ruled territories on the Malay Peninsula formed the Federation of Malaya, which became independent in 1957.
Malaysia was formed in 1963 when the former British colonies of Singapore and the East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak on the northern coast of Borneo joined the Federation. The first several years of the country's history were marred by Indonesian efforts to control Malaysia, Philippine claims to Sabah, and Singapore's secession from the Federation in 1965.
Location: Southeastern Asia, peninsula bordering Thailand and northern
one-third of the island of Borneo, bordering Indonesia, Brunei, and the South
China Sea, south of Vietnam
4,675 km (Peninsular Malaysia 2,068 km, East Malaysia 2,607 km)
Territorial sea: 12 nm
Tropical; annual southwest (April to October) and northeast (October to February) monsoons
Coastal plains rising to hills and mountains
Lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
Malaysia, a middle-income country, transformed itself from 1971 through the late 1990s from a producer of raw materials into an emerging multi-sector economy. Growth was almost exclusively driven by exports - particularly of electronics. As a result, Malaysia was hard hit by the global economic downturn and the slump in the information technology (IT) sector in 2001 and 2002. GDP in 2001 grew only 0.5% because of an estimated 11% contraction in exports, but a substantial fiscal stimulus package equal to US $1.9 billion mitigated the worst of the recession, and the economy rebounded in 2002 with a 4.1% increase.
The economy grew 4.9% in 2003, notwithstanding a difficult first half, when external pressures from Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the Iraq War led to caution in the business community. Growth topped 7% in 2004 and 5% in 2005. As an oil and gas exporter, Malaysia has profited from higher world energy prices, although the cost of government subsidies for domestic gasoline and diesel fuel has risen and offset some of the benefit.
Malaysia "unpegged" the ringgit from the US dollar in 2005, but so far there has been little movement in the exchange rate. Healthy foreign exchange reserves, low inflation, and a small external debt are all strengths that make it unlikely that Malaysia will experience a financial crisis over the near term similar to the one in 1997. The economy remains dependent on continued growth in the US, China, and Japan - top export destinations and key sources of foreign investment.
Airports: 117 (2005)
7,200 km; note: Peninsular Malaysia 3,200 km, Sabah 1,500 km, Sarawak 2,500 km (2005)
Total: 312 ships (1000 GRT or over) 5,360,403 GRT/7,353,105 DWT
Sailing Specifics: Ports and terminals
Bintulu, Johor, Labuan, Lahad Datu, Lumut, Miri, George Town (Penang), Port Kelang, Tanjung Pelepas
Malaysia has asserted sovereignty over the Spratly Islands together with China, Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, and possibly Brunei; while the 2002 "Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea" has eased tensions over the Spratly Islands, it is not the legally binding "code of conduct" sought by some parties; Malaysia was not party to the March 2005 joint accord among the national oil companies of China, the Philippines, and Vietnam on conducting marine seismic activities in the Spratly Islands.
Disputes continue over deliveries of fresh water to Singapore, Singapore's land reclamation, bridge construction, maritime boundaries, and Pedra Branca Island/Pulau Batu Putih - but parties agree to ICJ arbitration on island dispute within three years; ICJ awarded Ligitan and Sipadan islands, also claimed by Indonesia and Philippines, to Malaysia but left maritime boundary in the hydrocarbon-rich Celebes Sea in dispute, culminating in hostile confrontations in March 2005 over concessions to the Ambalat oil block; separatist violence in Thailand's predominantly Muslim southern provinces prompts measures to close and monitor border with Malaysia to stem terrorist activities.
Philippines retains a now dormant claim to Malaysia's Sabah State in northern Borneo; in 2003, Brunei and Malaysia ceased gas and oil exploration in their disputed offshore and deepwater seabeds and negotiations have stalemated prompting consideration of international adjudication; Malaysia's land boundary with Brunei around Limbang is in dispute; piracy remains a problem in the Malacca Strait.
Other Sailing Destinations in the Region