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Singapore extends port limits off Tuas, within territorial waters

07 Dec 2018

Singapore on Thursday (6 December) extended its port limits off Tuas via Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (Port Limits) (Amendment) Notification 2018 with immediate effect.

The extension is the latest development in a long line of exchanges between the republic and Malaysia spanning since 1979 (Chronology of Key Events available at bottom of article).

“On 25 Oct 2018, Malaysia issued Federal Government Gazette P.U. (B) 587 “Declaration of Alteration of Port Limits for Johore Bahru Port”. This unilaterally and arbitrarily extended the Johor Bahru Port Limits,” said Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and the Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan in a statement.

“Quite apart from the fact that Singapore has never accepted their 1979 territorial claims, the recent purported extension of the Johor Bahru Port Limits goes beyond what even Malaysia itself claimed as its territorial waters.

“Since at least 1999, Singapore has been exercising its jurisdiction in the waters now covered by the recent extension of the Johor Bahru Port Limits. We have been patrolling the area regularly, and protested any intrusions or unauthorised activities. Malaysia has never laid claim to these waters, or protested our actions there.

“Now, out of the blue, Malaysia is claiming these territorial waters that belong to Singapore. Without any prior consultations, Malaysia is seeking to alter unilaterally the long-standing status quo in the area.

“This is a blatant provocation and a serious violation of our sovereignty and international law.”

He noted to date there have been 14 intrusions from Malaysia government vessels since Malaysia’s declaration on 25 October.

Moving forward, Khaw noted a proposal by Malaysia to meet with Singapore officials to work towards an amicable resolution.

“Singapore naturally agrees to this and will follow up. It has always been our view, ever since Malaysia published its first map in 1979, that the boundary line in this area can only be settled in accordance with international law and practice, through consultations between the governments involved,” he stated.

“Meanwhile, Malaysian Government vessels should cease their intrusions and return to the status quo before 25 Oct 2018.”

Chronology of Key Events since 1979

Year Event
1979 Malaysia published a map depicting the limits of the territorial waters it claims, including in the areas in the eastern and western approaches to Singapore. This is the same map in which Malaysia claimed Pedra Branca as its own.
1980 Singapore lodged a diplomatic protest with Malaysia over its 1979 map, asserting that the boundary lines indicated in the map in respect of the areas in the eastern and western approaches to Singapore are unacceptable to Singapore, and that Pedra Branca belongs to Singapore.
1987 Malaysia published its Johor Bahru port limits, which tracked the territorial sea limits claimed in its 1979 map.
1995 Singapore and Malaysia concluded the 1995 Agreement between the Government of Malaysia and the Government of the Republic of Singapore to Delimit Precisely the Territorial Waters Boundary in Accordance with the Straits Settlements and Johore Territorial Waters Agreement 1927.
1997 Singapore’s port limits to the west of Raffles Lighthouse were extended slightly for better regulation of shipping traffic in the vicinity.
1999 Malaysia published its amended Johor Bahru port limits, which still tracked the territorial sea limits claimed in its 1979 map.
2018 Malaysia published altered Johor Bahru port limits, which encroach into Singapore’s territorial waters off Tuas. The altered port limits extend significantly eastward beyond the territorial sea claim in the area made in Malaysia’s 1979 map.

Related: Singapore/Malaysia Foreign Ministers speak on territorial waters issue
RelatedMPA: Johor Bahru port limit alteration ‘not recognised’ by Singapore

Photo credit: Singapore Ministry of Transport
Published: 7 December, 2018


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