SINGAPORE: Following the collision between a Greece-registered ship and a Malaysian government vessel on Saturday (Feb 9) in Singapore territorial waters off Tuas, Singapore has reiterated “its call for Malaysia to withdraw its vessels from the area”.
In its response on Sunday to media queries regarding the incident involving the Greece-registered Pireas and Malaysia's Polaris, Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said:
“The collision between MV Pireas and Malaysian Government vessel Polaris took place in Singapore Territorial Waters off Tuas, and in an area that goes beyond Malaysia’s territorial claim of 1979, which Singapore has never recognised.
“Singapore reiterates its call for Malaysia to withdraw its vessels from the area, as the persistent presence of its vessels clearly poses a threat to safety of navigation in the area,” MFA said.
It repeated what has been said previously, that Malaysia “will be responsible for any untoward situations on the ground that arise from continued deployment of its vessels into this area.”
The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) is investigating the incident, MFA added.
The collision between the Polaris and Pireas took place at 2.28pm on Saturday within Singapore port limits off Tuas, MPA said in an earlier statement.
The bulk carrier was on its way from Singapore to its next port of call at Tanjung Pelepas in Malaysia when the collision took place.
According to the Marine Traffic website, Pireas is a 200m cargo vessel built in 2006.
The Polaris belongs to the Malaysian Marine Department and is used to mark territory or safety hazards.
Singapore and Malaysia have been embroiled in a maritime dispute since October last year after Malaysia extended its Johor Bahru port limits, which Singapore says encroaches into its territorial waters.
In late November, Malaysian government vessels started intruding into Singapore waters, Singapore's Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said, speaking in Parliament on Jan 14.
Dr Balakrishnan said these "daily intrusions" have continued despite Malaysia saying it will "take all effective measures to de-escalate the situation on the ground".
Singapore has protested Malaysia's extension of its port limits and the intrusions, Dr Balakrishnan said, calling on both sides to act in good faith, comply with international law and honour existing agreements.
Dr Balakrishnan's ministerial statement came after a bilateral meeting with his Malaysia counterpart Saifuddin Abdullah on Jan 8. Both ministers agreed to set up a working group on maritime issues to study and discuss legal and operational matters, so as to de-escalate the situation on the ground.
The working group is expected to report to the foreign ministers within two months.