Singapore-Malaysia bilateral Issues; Agreed to not overlapping port limits

Minister Vivian Balakrishnan
Minister Vivian Balakrishnan YouTube/ govsingapore

Ministers from Singapore and Malaysia attended a meeting, which is a follow up from their previous meeting on 8 January 2019 and mutually agreed to suspend the implementation of their overlapping port limits.

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malaysia Dato' Saifuddin Abdullah and Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Singapore met in Putrajaya on Thursday morning and discussed to resolve the maritime issues surrounding the port limits of both countries.

As per a news release, published by Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), both ministers discussed the Working Group's report, headed by Chee and Shahrul. on maritime issues surrounding the overlapping Johor Bahru Port Limits off Tanjung Piai and Singapore Port Limits off Tuas.

Malaysia and Singapore announced the suspension of commercial activities in the area and agreed to not anchor government vessels.

"To mutually suspend the implementation of their overlapping port limits and apply their port limits in effect prior to 25 October 2018 and 6 December 2018 respectively;

"For Malaysia and Singapore vessels to operate in the area in accordance with international law including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The relevant agencies on both sides will work out practical modalities to avoid untoward incidents in the area," the news release added.

Both the countries have agreed mutually to establish a committee, chaired by the Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Malaysia and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Singapore for boundary delimitation.

The aim of this committee will be to ensure the implementation of the first four recommendations within one month, and that negotiations for maritime boundary delimitation in the area will commence within one month following such implementation.

The release added that the measures taken by both the South-East Asian countries shall be without prejudice to the respective maritime boundary claims in the area.

It should be noted that in that event the committee is unable to reach an amicable solution on delimitation, both countries may mutually agree to resort to an appropriate international third-party dispute settlement procedure on terms to be mutually agreed by the parties.

Two ministers agreed that these measures were vital to de-escalate the situation on the ground and pave the way for maritime boundary delimitation of the area.

"These measures also demonstrate the commitment of both countries to work together to preserve a strong and positive bilateral relationship on the basis of equality and mutual respect, and to resolve bilateral issues amicably in accordance with international law," the statement added.

The tension started between both countries after Malaysia extended its Johor Bahru port limits and as per Singapore government that encroaches into the Republic's territorial waters off Tuas. In recent months, Singapore also protested against Malaysia's proactive acts, which include Malaysian government vessel into Singapore territory, as well as Johor Chief Minister Osman Sapian's visit to the Malaysian vessel, which was parked in Singapore waters.

However, after Thursday morning meeting both the countries are looking forward to the successful implementation of the Working Group's recommendations.

A map showing the territorial boundaries between Singapore and Malaysia, and Singapore's port-limit extension.
A map showing the territorial boundaries between Singapore and Malaysia, and Singapore's port-limit extension. Singapore Ministry of Transport

Later in Twitter, Minister Balakrishnan wrote, "the Malaysian ships currently anchored in the area will leave, the port limits will revert to those before 25 October 2018, and we will continue to patrol the area in accordance with our laws and in accordance with the UNCLOS."

This article was first published on March 14, 2019