The Changi East Reclamation Project in Singapore, a multi-phase project involving the formation of 2000 ha of land by placing hydraulically filled sand on to soft seabed marine clay. Source: Google Maps

Malaysia bans export of sea sand, may affect Singapore’s land reclamation plans including Tuas megaport development

The Malaysian government has imposed a ban on all sea sand exports, which may affect Singapore’s land reclamation plans involving the Tuas mega port, which was poised to be the world’s largest container terminal.

In a report published on Wed (3 Jul), two senior officials in Kuala Lumpur told Reuters that the ban was imposed in early Oct last year, only around five months after Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s Pakatan Harapan coalition came to power in the 9 May General Election.

The officials added that the decision was made largely based on Mahathir’s dissatisfaction with Malaysia’s land being used to expand Singapore’s shores, and his concerns over the sea sand export being exploited by corrupt Malaysian officials seeking to make money from the practice.

The ban has been confirmed by the PM’s secretary, Endie Shazlie Akbar, according to Reuters. However, he rejected the allegations surrounding Mahathir’s alleged dissatisfaction with Singapore’s land reclamation, and instead stressed that the ban was instituted as a means to clamp down on illegal sand smuggling.

However, sources told Reuters that the ban was not announced publicly due to fears of a diplomatic rift.

While Singapore’s Ministry of National Development did not comment explicitly regarding the ban, Reuters reported the ministry as saying: “Sand is imported on a commercial basis from various countries to ensure resilience in our sand supply.”

“The government has also been encouraging the industry to reduce the reliance on sand,” MND told Reuters in response to queries.

A spokesperson for the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore told Reuters: “Besides sand, the MPA uses materials from a variety of sources to reclaim the land. These include dredged materials from navigational channels and fairways.”