Malaysia, Singapore spat worsens over vessel collision

Malaysia, Singapore spat worsens over vessel collision

PHOTO CREDIT: channelnewsasia

A Malaysian vessel and a Greek-registered bulk carrier collided in Singapore territorial waters off Tuas on Saturday, according to a statement from the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, which said it was “deeply concerned” by the intrusion.

Malaysia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said late Saturday that the Greek vessel and its crew have been detained, the Straits Times reported. The Malaysian vessel, Polaris, was anchored while the Greek bulk carrier, Piraeus, was sailing at the time of the incident, and there were no injuries, according to the report.

Polaris, a Malaysian Marine Department vessel, is one of the ships that allegedly trespassed into Singapore’s waters last year, according to the Straits Times report. The two nations, once part of the same country, have differences over issues ranging from maritime territorial claims to airspace, as well as the price of water supplied by Malaysia to the city-state.

“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,” a spokesperson from Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in an emailed statement Sunday. “As we have said previously, Malaysia will be responsible for any untoward situations on the ground that arise from continued deployment of its vessels into this area.”

Piraeus was on its way from Singapore to its next port of call, Tanjung Pelepas, when the collision took place at about 2:28 p.m. on Saturday, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore said in a statement on its website. The authority is investigating the incident, it said.

“MPA is deeply concerned that the presence of the unauthorized vessels in our port limits can cause confusion for the international shipping community and threaten navigational safety in our waters,” it said.

Tension between the two nations escalated after the government of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who returned to power in Malaysia last year, said it wants to retake airspace in Johor in stages from the end of 2019. Singapore’s transport ministry responded by saying the countries had an agreement dating back to 1974 that gave the city-state the right to provide air traffic services in the airspace above southern Johor.

Singapore also lodged a protest over Malaysia’s decision to extend the limits of a port in Johor, which borders the city state.

On Jan. 8, both countries reiterated efforts to improve bilateral ties. Days later, they postponed a ministerial meeting scheduled for Jan. 14, after what Singapore called an “ intrusion” into its waters by Osman Sapian, chief minister of Johor. Osman said in a Facebook post that the area he visited isn’t in Singapore waters. 

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