S'pore & M'sia to immediately suspend overlapping port claims

All commercial activities will be suspended in the area, and government vessels are not to be anchored there.

Kayla Wong | Matthias Ang | March 14, 2019, 01:01 PM

Both Singapore and Malaysia will suspend their overlapping port claims, Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and Malaysia Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah declared in a joint statement on March 14.

According to a statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), both countries will instead apply their port limits that had been in effect, prior to Dec. 6 for Singapore and prior to Oct. 25 for Malaysia.

As a quick recap, on Oct. 25, Malaysia unilaterally decided to expand its port limit into Singapore waters, while on Dec. 6, Singapore extended its own port limits to the 1979 boundary set by Malaysia in response.

Government vessels will not be anchored there

Additionally, neither side will anchor any government vessels in the area, nor will any commercial activities be authorised, with ongoing commercial activities to be suspended.

Both Vivian and Saifuddin had agreed that the suspension would be implemented immediately.

Their joint statement was reported in ST:

"Both Foreign Ministers agreed that these measures were vital to deescalate the situation on the ground, and pave the way for maritime boundary delimitation of the area".

Both Singapore and Malaysia vessels to operate in accordance with international law

Furthermore, both Singapore and Malaysia vessels are to operate in the area in accordance with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Relevant agencies on both sides are also to work out "practical modalities to avoid untoward incidents in the area".

Committee to be set up to ensure implementation of recommendations

Finally, both countries are to jointly establish a committee for boundary delimitation within a month to ensure implementation of the recommendations.

The committee will be 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.

Following the setting up of the committee, negotiations for maritime boundary delimitation in the area will commence within one month.

The statement added that these measures would be:

"...taken by both countries...without prejudice to Malaysia’s and Singapore’s respective maritime boundary claims in the area."

It also added that arbitration by an international third party was an option, in the event the committee could not resolve the issue of boundary delimitation.

"In the event that the committee is unable to reach an amicable solution on delimitation, Malaysia and Singapore may mutually agree to resort to an appropriate international third-party dispute settlement procedure on terms to be mutually agreed by the parties."

Top image via Vivian Balakrishnan and Saiffudin Abdullah's Facebook pages