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Air and sea dispute: Timeline of actions by Singapore and Malaysia

On Tuesday (Dec 4), Singapore and Malaysia transport agencies and officials were involved in a public exchange of words regarding separate protests lodged against each other over issues related to airspace and territorial waters. This is the timeline of events leading up to the protest notes:

Air and sea dispute: Timeline of actions by Singapore and Malaysia

In July this year, the Changi Airport Group “formally informed” Firefly that its flights would be relocated to Seletar Airport on Dec 1.

On Tuesday (Dec 4), Singapore and Malaysia transport agencies and officials were involved in a public exchange of words regarding separate protests lodged against each other over issues related to airspace and territorial waters. This is the timeline of events leading up to the protest notes:

 

Oct 25: The Attorney General’s Chambers of Malaysia publishes a “Declaration of Alteration of Port Limits for Johore Bahru Port” in the Federal Government Gazette. The unilateral move seeks to inform the shipping community about the expanded boundaries.

Nov 22: Malaysian budget airline Firefly says it will suspend all flights into Singapore from Dec 1, until “the relevant authorities have cleared remaining matters in relation to the Singapore authority’s plans to move turboprop operations from Changi International to Seletar (Airport)”.

Nov 23:  The Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) claims it was never consulted on the timeline to move scheduled turbo-prop operations to Seletar Airport.

It says Malaysia is willing to work with Singapore on the regulatory issues related to Singapore’s plan to move Firefly operations from Changi Airport to Seletar Airport, “including outstanding airspace issues to be discussed, particularly on reviewing the terms and conditions of delegation of Malaysia’s airspace to Singapore for the provision of Air Traffic Services”.

Nov 24: The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) says Firefly has yet to get the green light from the Malaysian authorities to move its operations to Seletar Airport. It adds that airspace issues are not related to the relocation. 

CAAS says Singapore had already conveyed to Malaysia that it stands ready to work together on airspace issues in the interest of international civil aviation and bilateral cooperation.

It states that the timeline for Firefly’s relocation was made known to the Malaysia Ministry of Transport and Firefly back in 2014.

In July this year, the Changi Airport Group “formally informed” Firefly that its flights would be relocated to Seletar Airport on Dec 1, to which Firefly agreed, CAAS points out.

Nov 30: The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) issues a port marine circular saying it does not recognise the port limits published by the Attorney General’s Chambers of Malaysia. The expanded boundaries encroach into Singapore’s territorial waters and “the approaches to the Port of Singapore off Tuas”, MPA says.

Dec 4: Malaysia’s Transport Minister Anthony Loke says Malaysia will issue a protest note to Singapore over the Republic’s plan to use southern Johor airspace for flight operations at Seletar Airport. Malaysia will also start talks on taking back its delegated airspace in the south, Mr Loke says.

Mr Loke claims Singapore’s new Instrument Landing System (ILS) procedures for Seletar Airport issued on Dec 1 would jeopardise development in Pasir Gudang. “To safeguard our airspace sovereignty and Pasir Gudang’s development, Malaysia had decided not to allow Singapore to go ahead with the new ILS. This decision was communicated to Singapore on November 28 and 29,” he says. “But Singapore went ahead with the ILS… As such, Malaysia, through the Foreign Ministry, will issue Singapore a protest note immediately.”

Later in the day, Singapore’s Transport Ministry said international law is clear that cross-border airspace management is not incompatible with sovereignty. “The purpose of airspace management is to ensure the safety and efficiency of air traffic,” it said.

The ministry discloses that ships and vessels from Malaysia have been repeatedly intruding into Singapore’s territorial waters off Tuas over the past two weeks, including vessels from the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency and Marine Department Malaysia.

The Singapore Government is strongly protesting Malaysia’s purported move to extend port limits, which violates sovereignty and international laws, and it will not hesitate to “take firm action against intrusions and unauthorised activities”.

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