Singapore calls on Malaysia to withdraw ships from ‘its waters’

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The collision between a Malaysian government vessel with a Greek carrier in waters disputed by Singapore and Malaysia on Sunday sparks a fresh flare-up of maritime tensions between the neighbours. THE STRAITS TIMES (singapore)/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

SINGAPORE has reiterated its call for Malaysia to withdraw its vessels from the island country’s territorial waters off Tuas, following a collision between Greek carrier Pireas and a Malaysian government vessel, Polaris, on Saturday.

“The persistent presence of its vessels clearly poses a threat to safety of navigation in the area,” said the Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in a statement on 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.”

In a separate statement, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said Pireas was making a manoeuvre to leave the area when it collided with Polaris.

Polaris, a Malaysian Marine Department vessel, is one of the vessels that trespassed into Singapore’s waters off Tuas last year. It was anchored when the accident occurred.

MPA added that Pireas was allowed to carry on to its next port of call – which was in Malaysia – as the accident was “not considered a very serious marine casualty incident” under the International Maritime Organisation’s Marine Casualty Investigation Code.

Pireas had been refuelling at Singapore’s eastern bunkering anchorage, which lies south of Bedok.

After doing so, it informed MPA that it was headed for Tanjung Pelepas in Johor, said the authority.

At 1:55pm, Pireas entered Singapore’s port limits off Tuas.

“It then slowed down, changed direction and collided with Polaris,” MPA said. The accident happened at around 2:30pm.

Upon establishing contact with Pireas, MPA’s Port Operations Control Centre instructed the Greece-registered vessel to stay clear of the area, MPA said.

“At this point, Pireas reported that prior to contacting [the control centre], it had collided with Polaris and there was no damage to its vessel.”

The crew members of both vessels were not injured. Malaysia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Saturday night that the Greek vessel and its crew have been detained.

On October 25 last year, Malaysia unilaterally gazetted altered port limits that went beyond its past claims.

In response, Singapore extended its port limits off Tuas to the full extent of its territorial waters.

As Saturday’s accident occurred in Singapore’s territorial waters, MPA launched investigations immediately, it said.

It has sent official notifications to Malaysia’s Marine Department and Greece’s Hellenic Bureau for Marine Casualties Investigation.

The port authority is also gathering and reviewing information – such as vessel records and video footage of the collision – and has requested a formal incident report from both vessels.

It has also contacted the Greek vessel’s agent in Singapore to assist with investigations.

“We advise the shipping community to ensure that vessels operating within Singapore Port Limits comply with the applicable regulations, including reporting their movements and to anchor only within designated anchorages,” it said. THE STRAITS TIMES /Asia News Network