Malaysian government vessel Polaris and Greek carrier collide in Singapore waters off Tuas

Greece-registered bulk carrier Pireas was on its way from Singapore to its next port of call at Tanjung Pelapas, Malaysia, when the collision took place at 2.28pm on Feb 9, 2019.
Greece-registered bulk carrier Pireas was on its way from Singapore to its next port of call at Tanjung Pelapas, Malaysia, when the collision took place at 2.28pm on Feb 9, 2019.PHOTO: SINGAPORE POLICE FORCE

SINGAPORE - A Malaysian government vessel, Polaris, and a Greek vessel have collided in Singapore territorial waters off Tuas.

In a statement, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said that the collision happened at 2.28pm on Saturday (Feb 9).

"There was a collision between Greece-registered bulk carrier Pireas and Malaysia vessel Polaris in Singapore territorial waters within Singapore Port Limits off Tuas," it said.

Pireas was on its way from Singapore to its next port of call at Tanjung Pelapas, Johor when the collision took place.

"MPA is deeply concerned that the presence of unauthorised vessels in Singapore port limits can cause confusion for the international shipping community and threaten navigational safety in our waters," the statement added.

An MPA spokesman said that there are no reports of an oil leak. MPA is investigating the incident.

On Sunday morning (Feb 10), Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterated its call for the withdrawal of Malaysian vessels from the area as the presence of the vessels "poses a threat to safety of navigation in the area".

"As we have said previously, Malaysia will be responsible for any untoward situations on the ground that arise from continued deployment of its vessels into this area," the ministry said, in response to media queries.

In a statement late on Saturday night, Malaysia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the Greek vessel and its crew have been detained.

It said that during communication with Polaris, Pireas had responded that it would steer clear of Polaris.

“Despite the clear communication and definitive instructions given, the collision happened on first contact until both vessels were cleared of each other at 2.36pm,” the statement added.

“The incident however does not hamper any traffic flow and is away from the Traffic Separation Scheme area,” it said.

Such schemes are part of international rules that help coordinate vessels into designated lanes in  order to prevent collisions at sea.

Malaysia Marine Department director general Datuk Baharin Abdul Hamid told The Straits Times that it has started a “preliminary inquiry” into the incident. 

He also said that the Polaris was anchored when the Pireas was sailing, and there were no injuries to the crew of both vessels as a result of the collision. 

“To facilitate the casualty investigation, the Pireas has been instructed to sail to the Port of Tanjung Pelepas where she is moored now,” he added.

Polaris, a Malaysian Marine Department vessel, is one of the vessels that trespassed into Singapore’s waters off Tuas last year.

On Oct 25 last year, Malaysia unilaterally gazetted altered port limits that went beyond its past claims. In response, Singapore extended its port limits off Tuas to the full extent of its territorial waters.

Speaking in Parliament on Jan 14, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said that Singapore would do its best to discuss all outstanding bilateral issues with Malaysia in a calm, reasonable and focused manner.

“We will always take appropriate measures to safeguard our interests. And any country dealing with Singapore must not assume that it is cost-free to embark on any adventures or antics against us. There will be consequences,” he said.

Dr Balakrishnan added that his discussions with his Malaysian counterpart Saifuddin Abdullah and Malaysian Minister of Economic Affairs Azmin Ali have been “amicable and constructive, focused on trying to resolve the issues”.

Officials from the two countries have been meeting to discuss the ongoing disputes.

Apart from the maritime dispute, Singapore also disputes Malaysia’s claim that the new Instrument Landing System (ILS) and ILS Approach Procedures for Singapore’s Seletar Airport will affect the development of the nearby Pasir Gudang town in Johor.

Additional reporting by Nadirah H. Rodzi