Parliament: Singapore won't allow any foreign government to assert authority in its waters, says Vivian Balakrishnan

Malaysian vessel Polaris and Greek bulk carrier Pireas collided as the Pireas was on its way from Singapore to its next port of call at Tanjung Pelepas in Johor.
Malaysian vessel Polaris and Greek bulk carrier Pireas collided 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 "will not allow any foreign government to assert any authority in our waters", Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said in a strongly worded statement in Parliament yesterday.

"If there are any attempts to assert authority or take any unauthorised actions, our agencies, our vessels and our forces will take appropriate measures," he added.

He was replying to Nominated MP Walter Theseira, who asked about a collision earlier this month between Malaysian government vessel Polaris and Greek-registered bulk carrier Pireas in Singapore's territorial waters off Tuas.

Associate Professor Theseira also asked what measures can be taken to ensure that vessels, crew and passengers will not be subject to foreign authority while in Singapore territorial waters or for acts committed in Singapore territorial waters.

The collision on Feb 9 took place as the Pireas was on its way from Singapore to its next port of call, Tanjung Pelepas in Johor.

Dr Balakrishnan told the House that a Singapore Police Coast Guard vessel on site observed and recorded the collision. The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) was thus notified by the Maritime Security Task Force and the Pireas itself.

And the MPA, having determined the incident was not a "very serious maritime casualty" under the International Maritime Organisation's code on casualties, allowed the vessel to proceed to its next port of call.

 
 
 

The minister noted that Pireas was not detained by the Malaysian authorities in Singapore waters.

Malaysia, on Oct 25 last year, unilaterally gazetted altered port limits that went beyond its past claims and intruded into Singapore's territorial waters. Malaysian government vessels have also continued to intrude into those waters. Singapore has called on Malaysia to withdraw its ships and return to the status quo before Oct 25. It has also extended its port limits off Tuas to the full extent of its territorial waters, and both countries are in talks on the matter.

Prof Theseira also asked the minister what mariners should do if they were given instructions by Malaysian vessels in Singapore waters, and what Singapore forces would do if they were to observe such attempts to give instructions.

Dr Balakrishnan said the waters have been designated as Singapore's port limits, hence, all vessels passing through should take instructions from MPA. "Any foreign government vessels have no locus standi to be issuing any instructions."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 27, 2019, with the headline 'S'pore won't allow any foreign govt to assert authority in its waters: Vivian'. Print Edition | Subscribe