Turning error by Greek ship caused collision in Singapore waters

Malaysian vessel Polaris and Greek bulk carrier Pireas collided on Feb 9, 2019, as the Pireas was on its way from Singapore to its next port of call at Tanjung Pelepas in Johor. PHOTO: SINGAPORE POLICE FORCE

Singapore investigators have found that an error in a turning manoeuvre by a Greek-registered bulk carrier caused a collision with a Malaysian government vessel in Singapore waters last month.

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said yesterday that it had completed its probe into the Feb 9 incident and has issued a stern warning to the master of the Greek ship, the Pireas.

The Polaris had been anchored in a non-designated anchorage within the Singapore port limits off Tuas when it was hit.

No injuries were reported after the collision, which occurred against the backdrop of an ongoing maritime boundary dispute between Singapore and Malaysia.

MPA reminded the shipping community to "ensure that vessels operating within Singapore port limits comply with the applicable regulations".

"MPA also reiterates its concern that the presence of unauthorised vessels in Singapore's port waters can cause confusion for the shipping community and threaten navigational safety in the area," the authority said.

Following Kuala Lumpur's unilateral extension of the Johor Baru port limits on Oct 25 last year - encroaching into the Republic's territorial waters - Malaysian government vessels, including the Polaris, have made repeated intrusions into Singapore's waters.

The new Johor Baru port limits go beyond what Malaysia has been claiming as its own waters in a 1979 map, which Singapore has consistently rejected.

In response, Singapore extended its own port limits on Dec 6, to the full extent of the Republic's territorial waters.

The stand-off, however, saw a turnaround on March 14, when both countries agreed to jointly suspend the overlapping port claims, as a step to start talks to delimit the maritime boundary.

After the collision on Feb 9, the Pireas was allowed to carry on to its next port of call in Malaysia, as the accident was "not considered a very serious marine casualty incident under the International Maritime Organisation Marine Casualty Investigation Code", MPA said earlier.

The Pireas had been refuelling at Singapore's eastern bunkering anchorage, which lies south of Bedok, and had informed MPA it was bound for Tanjung Pelepas in Johor before the accident occurred.

The Polaris has since left Singapore and, according to a Facebook post by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, was one of 40 vessels which took part in a fleet review he observed on Wednesday, at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 29, 2019, with the headline Turning error by Greek ship caused collision in Singapore waters. Subscribe