Aug 5, 2010

Smuggling sand to Singapore

Singapore is running out of space. Since the 1960s, its land area has grown from 581.5 to 710 sq. km, and further land reclamation is planned. For this it needs sand, lots of it. The problem is that most countries have  restrictions on sand export. A few months ago I blogged about Indonesian island sand being smuggled, and islands disappearing underwater as a result. As Foreign Policy reports, Malaysia may also be exporting it, despite a 10 year old blanket ban:
In June, an investigation by the Malaysian newspaper the Star blew the lid off the sand smuggling trade. The paper's reporters followed a Malaysian dredging company working on the Johor River, about 50 miles inland from the Singapore Strait. The company had won a transport license by claiming it was shipping extracted sand internally, to the Malaysian ports of Tanjung Pelepas or Danga Bay. The shortest route to the destination, however, took ships through Singaporean waters. Once the sand was extracted, the barges sailed downriver to the Malaysia-Singapore border and passed through customs. The barges never made it to the claimed destination -- they simply stopped at the Singaporean jetty of Pulau Punggol Timur, presented freshly forged paperwork, and unloaded their cargo. 
This can be seen in the smuggling gap in official trade statistics, as Singapore declares more imports from Malaysia than the latter declares. It is curious that in 2008, the gap in kg is the other way round...

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