Mutual suspension of overlapping port limits kicks in

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.PHOTO: ST FILE

Malaysia and Singapore yesterday mutually suspended the implementation of their overlapping port limits, reverting to what was in place before Oct 25 and Dec 6, respectively.

The move went into effect at 12.01am yesterday, a spokesman for the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said.

"This suspension is pursuant to one of the five recommendations in the report of the working group on maritime issues surrounding the overlapping Johor Baru Port limits off Tanjung Piai and Singapore port limits off Tuas," it said.

The move was agreed upon last month by Singapore's Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and his Malaysian counterpart, Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, to de-escalate the situation on the ground and pave the way for maritime boundary delimitation.

Singapore and Malaysia also agreed to suspend and not to authorise all commercial activities in the area, as well as not to anchor any government vessels there.

Both sides also set up a joint committee chaired by the permanent secretary of Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr Chee Wee Kiong, and Malaysia's Foreign Ministry secretary-general Muhammad Shahrul Ikram Yaakob.

The committee was also tasked to ensure the various measures are implemented within a month, and that talks to delimit maritime boundaries in the area start within a month after that.

 
 
 
 

The two countries have been embroiled in a dispute over Singapore's territorial waters off Tuas since late last year.

It started on Oct 25, when Malaysia issued a gazette notification that unilaterally extended the Johor Baru Port limits.

It also issued a port circular dated Nov 11 and a notice to mariners, dated Nov 22, on these changes.

Responding, the MPA issued a circular on Nov 30 instructing ship masters and owners of vessels to disregard Malaysia's notices, "which impinge on Singapore's sovereignty".

On Dec 6, Singapore extended its port limits off Tuas, within its territorial waters.

Yesterday's update came ahead of a leaders' retreat between the two countries that had been postponed last November.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will meet his Malaysian counterpart Mahathir Mohamad at Malaysia's administrative capital Putrajaya today to discuss, among other issues, the maritime dispute.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 09, 2019, with the headline 'Mutual suspension of overlapping port limits kicks in'. Print Edition | Subscribe