Malaysian vessel Pedoman. Source: Marine Traffic/Ikhwan Ikhsan

MV Pedoman and Polaris “have always remained within Malaysian waters”: Malaysian Marine Department

The Malaysian Marine Department (MMD) rejected an allegation regarding the presence of its primary vessel, the MV Pedoman, in Singapore’s territorial waters, and insisted “that MV Pedoman and Polaris have always remained within Malaysian waters”.

The department’s Head of Corporate Communications Unit Yusnan Abdul Rani told Bernama in an email on Wednesday (9 Jan) that the vessel was well within the new Johor Bahru port limits, in the area where the MV Polaris vessel was.

MV Pedoman replaced MV Polaris, following the latter’s departure from the disputed area on Saturday (5 Jan), as MV Polaris “needed to restock and refuel”.

Mr Yusnan added in his email to Bernama that the Polaris has been moved to the department’s jetty in Tanjung Pelepas, Johor.

He explained that the vessels were deployed to the area for the purpose of monitoring “traffic and vessel routes” in and out of JPL, and to “ensure the safe voyage of vessels” within the area.

The same day, Johor Menteri Besar Osman Sapian paid a visit to Malaysian Marine Department officers aboard the MV Pedoman vessel on Wednesday (9 Jan), which, according to the State Minister, is the “mother ship” of the department in the Malaysia-Singapore maritime border area.

He added in his Facebook post that the vessel’s Captain Mohamad Azlan Aziz had briefed him on the maritime territorial limits between Malaysia and the Republic, which have been a source of major contention between the two countries.

Singapore’s largest Chinese-language news outlet Lianhe Zaobao, however, reported on Thursday (10 Jan) that Mr Osman’s act of thanking the Malaysian Marine Department officers for “controlling and defending our [Malaysian] waters” can be perceived as carrying a “certain provocative meaning”.

Lianhe Zaobao also charged that Malaysia had been “invading Singapore’s territorial waters” by “suddenly unilaterally expanded the boundaries of the port of Johor Bahru” in October last year and “dispatching official boats into the dispute-prone waters” since.

Channel NewsAsia reported on Thursday (10 Jan) that according to Singapore’s Maritime and Port Authority (MPA), five Malaysian government vessels were present in Singapore’s territorial waters off Tuas at 6pm the day before, one of them being the MV Pedoman.

The Maritime Port Authority (MPA) confirmed the presence of the five Malaysian vessels in Singapore’s waters following a reportedly fruitful meeting between the foreign affairs ministers of both nations, in response to queries from the media.

MPA added that the number of vessels went down to two on Thursday evening (10 Jan).

According to the data on MarineTraffic, the boats are situated at the disputed area where Malaysia and Singapore had laid claims last year.

MV Pedoman’s location within the disputed area as of 1:53 p.m. on Thursday (10 Jan). Pedoman is indicated by the blue dot with a black square border in the middle. Source: MarineTraffic
MV Pedoman’s position within the area of dispute (indicated by red circle) as of 2:23 a.m. on Friday (11 Jan). Source: MarineTraffic

Previously on Tuesday (8 Jan), Malaysian daily New Straits Times reported that Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan had conducted a meeting with his Malaysian counterpart Saifuddin Abdullah in the Republic to resolve the ongoing bilateral territorial disputes concerning maritime boundaries off Tuas in Singapore and the airspace above Pasir Gudang in Johor with the implementation of Singapore’s Instrument Landing System (ILS) from Seletar Airport.

While Singapore continued to urge Malaysia to remove its government vessels from the area of dispute, the Republic has agreed to suspend its implementation of the ILS for a month.