SINGAPORE: As many as five Malaysian government vessels have been seen in Singapore territorial waters, in the wake of a positive meeting between Singapore and Malaysia's foreign affairs ministers.
In response to media queries, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) confirmed that there were five Malaysian government vessels in Singapore waters off Tuas at 6pm on Wednesday.
As at 6pm on Thursday (Jan 10), two Malaysian government vessels remain in Singapore territorial waters off Tuas, MPA said.
READ: Malaysia, Singapore agree to suspend permanent restricted area over Pasir Gudang, ILS for Seletar Airport
One of these Malaysian ships was buoy-laying vessel MV Pedoman. Malaysian media reported that the vessel with 22 crew members replaced the MV Polaris, which left Singapore waters on Saturday.
According to a Bernama report, the Malaysian Marine Department insisted on Wednesday that both vessels had been in Malaysian waters.
"The MV Pedoman replaced the Polaris because the latter needed to restock and refuel," a Malaysian government official said.
On Wednesday, Johor Chief Minister Osman Sapian made a visit to the Pedoman. Mr Osman also posted photos on Facebook showing his visit on board the vessel.
Malaysian government vessels have made repeated incursions into Singapore territorial waters in recent months, after Malaysia extended the Johor Bahru port limits in October, encroaching into Singapore territorial waters off Tuas.
Singapore has protested the port limit extension and the movements of the vessels. Singapore's Transport Ministry also extended Singapore's port limits off Tuas on Dec 6 in response.
Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan also said then that there had been as many as 14 intrusions by Malaysian vessels in the two weeks before Dec 6.
At the same time, the two countries have been embroiled in a dispute on the airspace over southern Johor.
This week, tensions appeared to have eased as both countries' foreign ministers met.
Singapore Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and his Malaysian counterpart Saifuddin Abdullah said in a joint statement on Tuesday that the countries had agreed to establish a working group to study and discuss legal and operational matters relating to the maritime dispute, in order to provide a basis for further discussions and negotiations.
They also agreed to suspend the permanent restricted area established by Malaysia in the airspace over Pasir Gudang, while Singapore similarly suspended its implementation of Instrument Landing System procedures for Seletar Airport.
Both sides' transport ministers were to meet "soon" for discussions, the statement said.