Johor says ship-to-ship cargo transfer hub is within its jurisdiction

A view of the Johor Baru port, as seen from Tuas on Dec 5, 2018. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

JOHOR BARU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Johor on Friday (April 5) refuted claims that the newly launched ship-to-ship cargo transfer hub is outside its territory, stressing that it is within its jurisdiction.

Johor International Trade, Investment and Utility Committee chairman Jimmy Puah Wee Tse said in a statement that the hub is located located 3.5 nautical miles from Johor shores.

Hence, it falls within Johor's territory.

"Two key components of the Territorial Sea Act 2012 (TSA) are found in Section 3(1), which basically endorse the definition of Territorial Sea as defined by the 1982 Law of the Sea at 12 nautical miles, and Section 3(3), which seek to limit the state jurisdiction to 3 nautical miles," said Mr Puah.

"The problem is Article 2 of the Federal Constitution stipulated that Parliament may, by law, alter the boundaries to any state, but a law altering the boundaries shall not be passed without the consent of that state in a state legislature and of the Conference of Rulers," he added.

He added that as far as he was aware, no such motion or enactment was ever passed in the Johor state legislative assembly, nor received any royal assent from the ruler.

"Hence, I will assert that, similar to land jurisdiction, the state water jurisdiction runs parallel with that of Malaysia and shall be 12 nautical miles in view that Section 3(3) of the Act is in direct violation of the Federal Constitution unless and until the state approved it under the existing legal mechanism."

Malaysia announced on Tuesday that it is developing a multi-million-dollar project off Johor's Port of Tanjung Pelepas to enable ships to transfer their cargo to other vessels without having to dock at the berths, which officials say will allow higher shipping flexibility and cut costs for shippers.

The project, costing between US$150 million (S$203 million) and US$180 million, will cover an area of 1,200ha, more than three times the size of Sentosa Island. It will be built in the Strait of Johor near Tuas.

The joint-project between Malaysian maritime services company KA Petra and Hong Kong-based port operator Hutchison Port Holdings is billed as the "world's biggest" ship-to-ship transfer hub. It will be able to accommodate up to 30 vessels at one time.

A report by Malaysian news portal The Edge Markets quoted KA Petra's executive chairman Shahrul Amirul as saying that the hub falls under the jurisdiction of the federal government because it was more than 3.5 nautical miles from shore.

However, Mr Puah on Friday dismissed Mr Shahrul's claims, saying that as a former legal practitioner and a student of law of the seas, he found the latter's statement "wholly irresponsible", especially coming from a person "lacking knowledge or legal background" on the matter.

Mr Puah said land and water jurisdictions were sacrosanct to the state, as enshrined under the Federal Constitution.

"We are minded to always be vigilant and defend our state's right, should any party seek to challenge our sovereignty," he said.

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