Malaysia, Singapore tensions flare up after boat collision
Malaysian government vessel collided with a ship in waters disputed by Singapore and Malaysia, sparking a fresh flare-up of maritime tensions on Sunday between the neighbours. Malaysian authorities impounded the Greek-flagged bulk carrier, the Pireas, and detained its crew after the collision on Saturday with the Malaysian boat Polaris.
The neighbours have had testy relations since Malaysia evicted the island from the Malaysian Federation in 1965, ending a brief and stormy union of the former British colonies. Ties have gone up and down over the years but have been shaky since Malaysia's Mahathir Mohamad -- who has long had a prickly relationship with Singapore -- returned to the premiership with a shock election victory last year.
Maritime tensions began rising late last year when Singapore accused Malaysia of extending its claims in the strait that separates the neighbours into what had long been accepted as the city-state's territorial waters. The city-state, one of the world's busiest cargo ports, said Malaysian vessels were repeatedly encroaching into its waters -- an accusation denied by Malaysia.
Both sides claimed Saturday’s collision off Tuas, in Singapore, had happened in their waters. The accident did not cause any injuries or lead to an oil spill. According to Malaysia's foreign ministry, the boats communicated before the accident, and the Greek carrier had said it would steer clear of the Malaysian boat.