Singapore – A Greece-registered ship and Malaysian vessel Polaris have collided in Singapore waters on Saturday, February 9. The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said in a statement that the collision happened as the Greek vessel was headed to Tanjung Pelepas in Malaysia coming from Singapore at 2:28 pm near the Singapore port limits off Tuas.
The MPA is currently investigating the collision and is “deeply concerned” about the risks being posed by unauthorised vessels “parking and passing” in Singapore territorial waters. According to the MPA, “The presence of unauthorised vessels in Singapore port limits can cause confusion for the international shipping community and threaten navigational safety in our waters.”
Fortunately, there have been no reports of an oil leak or injuries incurred from the crew of both vessels due to the collision. Malaysia’s Marine Department (MARDEP) Director-General Mr. Baharin Abdul Hamid said that the Greek vessel and crew have been detained “for purposes of a preliminary inquiry.”
An MFA Spokesperson has given the following official statement regarding the incident:
“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. 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. The Maritime & Port Authority of Singapore is currently investigating the incident.”
With the ongoing maritime disputes between Malaysia and Singapore regarding territorial waters and unofficial visits, this latest incident has only placed more tension on the issue. It was only last October when Malaysia decided to extend its Johor Bahru port limits, which posed a problem for Singapore because it intrudes into its territorial waters. A month later, vessels belonging to the Malaysian government started to trespass into Singapore waters as confirmed by Singapore’s Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan. He said that the intrusions continued to take place daily regardless of Malaysia’s statement that it will address the issue and “take all effective measures to de-escalate the situation on the ground.”
On January 19 when a Singaporean Oxford student questioned Malaysia’s Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir in a viral video regarding the maritime disputes and got an answer that Johor waters are “international waters”. The discussion ended abruptly with the student choosing to pass the mic instead, although he did do some research after the debate and posted his findings online. Recap on that encounter below:
Dr. Balakrishnan and his Malaysian counterpart Saifuddin Abdullah has agreed to set up a working group to address the legalities and operational matters involving the maritime dispute with a report to be submitted sometime in April as they were given a two-month time period from the time of the meeting which happened on January 8.