JB port limits: Singapore seeks amicable solution

Singapore has lodged a protest over alleged encroachment of its territorial waters. (Bernama pic)

SINGAPORE: Singapore says it is ready to engage with Malaysia to find an amicable solution, in accordance with international laws, to issues related to the Johor Bahru port limits.

The republic’s Ministry of Transport (MOT) said in a statement that it noted “with grave concern” that Malaysia had recently purported to extend the Johor Bahru port limits in a manner which encroaches into Singapore Territorial Waters (STW) off Tuas.

The MOT said it was done through Malaysia’s publication of the Federal Government Gazette P.U. (B) 587 “Declaration of Alteration of Port Limits for Johore Bahru Port” dated Oct 25, 2018 (the “Gazette Notification”), Port Circular No 88/2018 dated Nov 11, 2018 (“PC 88/2018”), and Notice to Mariners No 164/2018 dated Nov 22, 2018 (“NtM 164/2018”).

It said Singapore had lodged a strong protest with the Malaysian government.

The MOT said it had also requested that Malaysia amend the Gazette Notification, PC 88/2018 and NtM 164/2018 to reflect the sovereignty of Singapore over the waters in question, and that Malaysia refrain from taking any further unilateral action.

The ministry said the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) has issued a Port Marine Circular on Nov 30, 2018, instructing shipmasters and owners of vessels to disregard Malaysia’s Gazette Notification, PC 88/2018 and NtM 164/2018, which impinge on Singapore’s sovereignty.

The MOT said over the past two weeks, vessels from the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency and Marine Department Malaysia have also repeatedly intruded into STW off Tuas.

“Singapore has protested the unauthorised movements of, and purported assertions of sovereignty by these vessels, which are inconsistent with international law.

“The Republic of Singapore Navy and the Police Coast Guard are safeguarding the sovereignty of STW and enforcing the security of these waters on a 24/7 basis.

“Singapore will not hesitate to take firm action against intrusions and unauthorised activities in our waters,” said the MOT.

The statement noted that Malaysia’s purported extension of the Johor Bahru port limits and the repeated intrusions by Malaysian government vessels into STW were serious violations of Singapore’s sovereignty and international law.

“These actions are unconducive to good bilateral relations, cause confusion for the international shipping community, and lead to increased navigational and safety risks for all parties,” it said.