A great part underneath the South China Sea contains oil and hence the strong intention of a number of countries to claim islands in this area to make their territorial claims. This goes to the extent that very small islands will be turned into a military base or fortress or shallow waters and reefs will be turned into a small island in order to be claimed for a military base. Countries that have claimed or still claim parts of the South China Sea or in particular the Spratly area are: China, Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.
I dont want to go into details on the claims and political issues that are connected to all the small islands and atolls in this area but you can easily find further information on the internet. An interesting link is www.panoramio.com/ where you can find pictures of some of these island and in some cases accompanied by comments. Search fro Spratly and zoom in for the different islands.
What do you need to operate from Layang Layang
In the first place a radio license from MCMC, the license authority that is located in Cyberjaya, just south of Kuala Lumpur. Secondly you need to have clearance from the Royal Malaysian Navy, Markas Wilayah Laut 2 office in Kota Kinabalu (Sabah) as they do have a naval base on the island and control the island. Once you have both, you are ready to book your stay at the Layang Layang Resort, which is a diving resort. Upon arrival, the resort manager has to submit your license and navy approval to the head of the naval base and who will give his final approval before you can start your operation. This might involve also an inspection of your station as well. As in so many other cases around the world, some people have not handled according to the instructions which have led to more strict operations.
Layang Layang Resort organizes their own flights from Kota Kinabalu to the island and this is carried out by a Russian company that operates an AH-28-120 plane with 20 seats. In addition they also operate a cargo plane. It is also possible to book a vessel for Layang Layang. This might be an alternative if you want to bring a lot of equipment to the island.
Finally the approval arrived
In the weeks before my scheduled trip to Layang Layang, I started to organize my equipment, logging software, transportation, etc. However, the final booking for the resort would depend on the approval of the Navy, as without that approval, I would not be able to operate legally. The Layang Layang Resort was very helpful in this process, but it was very hard to reach the right person in the navy. Only a few days before my scheduled trip, the approval was received. Actually, at the same time I was writing my mail to the resort that I had decided to cancel the trip due to the fact that I did not receive a naval approval, the message came in that the approval was on hand. Now I had to quickly make my final transport and hotel arrangements to secure my scheduled trip. Flight from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu was arranged plus a one night in Kota Kinabalu.