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Country Risk

Singapore, Malaysia suspend overlapping maritime claims in waters off Tuas

14 March 2019
Singapore's Littoral Mission Vessel RSS (right), keeping an eye on Malaysian Marine Department ship MV Pedoman, off Tuas. Source: Singapore Ministry of Defence

Key Points

  • The governments of Malaysia and Singapore have agreed to not anchor any government vessels in the disputed maritime region
  • However, Malaysia has yet to withdraw a buoy-laying tender from the area as of 15 March, casting uncertainties over diplomatic progress made

The Malaysian and Singaporean governments have reached an agreement to suspend their respective claims over a maritime area off Tuas, in a bid to de-escalate tensions between the two neighbouring countries.

The agreement was reached between the foreign ministers of both countries in Putrajaya, Malaysia, on 14 March. Officials from Malaysia and Singapore will now work towards establishing a mutually agreed upon maritime boundaries for the area, according to a joint statement issued by the foreign affairs ministry of both countries on the same day.

The maritime tensions off Tuas arose after Malaysia unilaterally announced an alteration to its port limits in the Johor Strait on 25 October 2018 to include waters that Singapore claims as part of its territory. These waters are located about 1 n mile (1.6 km) off the coast of western Singapore and 5.3 n miles off Tanjung Piai in southern Malaysia.

In response to Malaysia's alteration, Singapore's transportation ministry reciprocally published revised co-ordinates to its own port limits, which effectively gave rise to approximately 2 n sq miles of overlapping maritime territorial claims between the two countries.

In line with its claims, the Malaysian Marine Department began intermittent deployments of two buoy tenders, MV Pedoman and MV Polaris , into the disputed waters in December 2018. These deployments prompted the dispatch of warships from the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) and patrol boats from the Singapore Police Coast Guard (PCG).

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