Ship collision at Straits of Johor not detrimental to bilateral trade with Singapore

Although there is a feeling of rising tension, both parties have to bring this matter to the table for deliberation, says expert


The collision between Malaysia’s marine surveillance vessel MV Polaris and the bulk carrier ship registered in Greece, MV Pireas, will not affect Malaysia-Singapore bilateral trade amid concerns that it may further aggravate the relation between both countries.

International relations expert Prof Dr Rajah Rasiah said both countries are aware of the negative consequences of a prolonged disagreement based on its long-standing bilateral relations.

“I think collisions at the Straits of Johor have never left the two countries with an economic crisis to the point of a trade war or attempts to restrict trade.

“Although there is a feeling of rising tension, both parties have to bring this matter to the table for deliberation,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) in a phone interview recently. Johor Port Authority told TMR in an email reply that the collision is being investigated by Malaysia’s marine department.

“We will leave the matter to the Marine Department Malaysia (MDM) and it is currently being investigated by them,” it said.

Singapore’s Marine and Port Authority had claimed that the collision was within Singapore’s port limits off Tuas, which suggested an unauthorised entry of the Malaysia’s marine vessel.

MDM stood firm on the locality of MV Polaris, stressing that the vessel was within Johor Baru’s port limit and did not violate any unauthorised entry into Singapore water.

Meanwhile, according to an industry player, the collision between the vessels was unlikely caused by the extended border limit imposed by both countries earlier this year.

“I do not think the incident that took place has anything to do with the new port limits being extended by both parties.

“This is actually common in an anchorage area, especially when there are many vessels anchored as well as those who are on the move,” said the source who wish to remain anonymous.

He, however, pointed out that the competence of the crew in manoeuvring the bulk carrier and its navigation communication should be questioned as the marine vessel was stationary.

“In this case, I think the competence of the crew should be questioned and they may have underestimated the local current.

“Because if they are being too slow, the current will push them against other vessels.

“MV Pireas should have known very well that there was a ship anchored there and there’s no reason for MV Pireas to drift so close to it,” he said.

Contrary to Rajah, he believed that the prolonged dispute between Malaysia and Singapore will tarnish the countries’ maritime reputation of having the two vital ports in South-East Asia.

“Any kind of dispute is not right for both countries, especially when we have two important ports adjacent to each other, one being Port of Tanjung Pelepas and Tuas Port.

“Both countries have a lot of things to be concerned about, and if they do not handle this amicably, we would not look good by the international maritime,” he said.

Malaysia and Singapore have been in a heated disagreement over the border limit at Tebrau Strait after the former decided to extend its port limit at the ill-defined area at the straits.