Malaysia, Singapore to revert to previous port limits

Malaysia, Singapore to revert to previous port limits

By RAHIMI YUNUS / Pic By BERNAMA 

Malaysia and Singapore have mutually agreed to suspend the implementation of overlapping port limits bordering Tanjung Piai and Tuas, and revert to the previous ones to resolve maritime border dispute between the two countries.

In a joint press statement issued by Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah and his counterpart Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, both sides would apply their port limits in effect prior to Oct 25, 2018, and Dec 6, 2018, respectively.

It also said such a decision was made following one of five recommendations made by a joint working group.

According to the statement issued after a meeting between the ministers in Putrajaya yesterday, both countries have also agreed to not authorise, suspend all commercial activities and to not anchor government vessels in the area.

In addition, Malaysia’s and Singapore’s vessels are to operate in the area in accordance with international law including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, while the relevant agencies on both sides will work out practical modalities to avoid untoward incidents in the area, it said.

The statement added that both ministers have agreed to establish a committee, to be chaired by the Malaysian Foreign Ministry secretary-general and the Singaporean Foreign Affairs permanent secretary, to ensure the implementation of the first four recommendations within one month.

“(It will also ensure that) negotiations for maritime boundary delimitation in the area will commence within one month following such implementation.

“These measures taken by both countries shall not be without prejudice to Malaysia’s and Singapore’s respective maritime boundary claims in the area,” it said.

The statement also said both countries may mutually agree to resort to an international third-party dispute settlement procedure on terms to be mutually agreed by the parties.

“Both foreign ministers agreed that these measures are vital to de-escalate the situation on the ground and pave the way for the maritime boundary delimitation of the area,” it said.

The port limits dispute saw untoward aggression after the collision between Malaysia’s marine surveillance vessel, MV Polaris, and a Greece-registered bulk carrier ship, MV Pireas, near Johor Baru (JB) port and Singapore Port last month.

The Marine Department of Malaysia stood firm on the locality of MV Polaris, stressing that the vessel was within JB’s port limit and did not violate any unauthorised entry into Singapore water.

On the other hand, 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 Malaysian marine vessel.