Singapore seeks more details from KL on ship-to-ship transfer hub

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

Singapore has requested information from Malaysia over its plan to develop a ship-to-ship (STS) transfer project in the Strait of Johor facing Tuas, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said yesterday.

"The Government of Singapore has not received any communication or information from Malaysia related to the development of a ship-to-ship transfer hub in the Strait of Johor by KA Petra and Hutchison Port Holdings," a spokesman for MFA said in response to media queries.

"We are seeking more information from Malaysia on the project, including its precise location, as well as any potential implications this project has on Malaysia's bilateral and international obligations, including on safety of navigation in the area and its potential transboundary environmental impact.

"Singapore has requested such information from Malaysia in order to assess its implications for Singapore."

Malaysia said on Tuesday that the project will cost between US$150 million (S$203 million) and US$180 million. It will cover an area of 1,200ha, more than three times the size of Sentosa Island.

The new hub will have man-made "dolphin" mooring structures to berth vessels, and can accommodate up to 30 ships at any one time. Dubbed the world's biggest STS hub, it will enable ships to transfer their cargo to other vessels without having to dock at berths in the Port of Tanjung Pelepas in Johor. This, officials say, will allow higher shipping flexibility and cut costs for shippers.

Hutchison Port will take a 30 per cent stake in the project, with the rest held by KA Petra.

 
 
 

The hub, expected to be ready in 2021, will also be able to store 9 million tonnes of petroleum products.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who witnessed the signing ceremony between the two companies, said at a news conference on Tuesday that the project will not encroach on Singapore waters. "This project has been discussed over a long time. There were problems we had when Singapore said we are encroaching. We are not encroaching. We are in our waters, and I think this is public knowledge," he said.

The question about possible encroachment was raised as the Republic and Malaysia are involved in a maritime dispute in the Strait of Johor, sparked by Malaysia's decision to extend the Johor Baru Port limits on Oct 25 last year.

On Dec 6, Singapore also extended its port limits to the full extent of its territorial waters.

The tense stand-off saw a promised turnaround last month, when both countries agreed to jointly suspend their overlapping port claims as a step to begin talks to delimit the maritime boundary in the area.

But Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said on Monday that two Malaysian government vessels remain anchored in Singapore's territorial waters off Tuas, a fortnight after both sides had agreed to suspend the overlapping port claims.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 06, 2019, with the headline 'Singapore seeks more details from KL on ship-to-ship transfer hub'. Print Edition | Subscribe