Singapore, Malaysia maritime dispute: A timeline

SINGAPORE: Singapore and its northern neighbour Malaysia are embroiled in a maritime dispute after the two countries traded conflicting views over the issue.

Singapore has said Malaysia has been intruding into its waters.

Here is a timeline of key events: 


1979: Malaysia publishes a map depicting the territorial waters it claims. This included its claim on Pedra Branca, as well as on areas at the eastern and western approaches to Singapore. The boundary lines that Malaysia claimed at the western approach intruded into the port limits of Singapore. Singapore was not consulted in the making of this map.

1980: Singapore lodges a diplomatic protest with Malaysia over the 1979 map, asserting that the boundary lines indicated in the map violated Singapore’s sovereignty and that Pedra Branca belongs to Singapore.

1987: Malaysia publishes its Johor Bahru port limits, which tracks the territorial sea limits claimed in its 1979 map.

1995: Singapore and Malaysia conclude the 1995 Agreement between the Government of Malaysia and the Government of the Republic of Singapore to Delimit Precisely the Territorial Waters Boundary in Accordance with the Straits Settlements and Johore Territorial Waters Agreement 1927.

READ: In full: Khaw Boon Wan’s statement on Malaysian intrusions into Singapore territorial waters

1997: Singapore’s port limits to the west of Raffles Lighthouse are extended slightly for better regulation of shipping traffic in the vicinity. Until 2018, this was the last time Singapore amended its port limits.

1999: Malaysia publishes its amended Johor Bahru port limits, which still tracks the territorial sea limits claimed in its 1979 map. For the next 20 years, this limit has remained intact. Singapore continues to exercise its jurisdiction in the waters now covered by the extension of the port limits, without any protest from Malaysia. 

2018: Malaysia publishes altered Johor Bahru port limits, which encroach into Singapore’s territorial waters off Tuas. The altered port limits extend significantly eastward beyond the territorial sea claim in the area made in Malaysia’s 1979 map. Singapore protests the altered port limits, noting there have been numerous intrusions by Malaysian vessels into Singapore waters since the alteration. Singapore extends its port limits off Tuas following the recent provocations.

Illustration showing the adjustment of Singapore and Malaysia’s port limits.

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