|Malaysian buoy-laying vessel Polaris leaves Singapore waters|
SINGAPORE: The Malaysian vessel that had been anchored in Singapore territorial waters off Tuas since Dec 3 last year has returned to the Malaysian port of Tanjung Pelepas.
The Polaris, which belongs to the Malaysia Marine Department, is a buoy-laying vessel that can be used to mark territory or safety hazards.
According to global ship tracking site MarineTraffic, the Polaris started its journey back to Malaysia on Jan 5 at about 10.15am, leaving Singapore waters before stopping at Tanjung Pelepas about an hour later. It has remained there since.
A check of the ship tracking site on Wednesday afternoon also showed that another buoy-laying vessel, Pedoman, is in Singapore waters.
On Tuesday (Jan 8), the foreign ministers of Singapore and Malaysia met in the Republic to discuss, among other matters, maritime issues concerning the port limits of both countries.
To that end, Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and his Malaysian counterpart Saifuddin Abdullah agreed to set up a working group to study legal and operational matters, with an aim to de-escalate the situation on the ground and provide a basis for further discussions and negotiations.
The working group will report to the foreign ministers within two months.
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The Polaris, a multi-purpose vessel that can stay at sea for 35 days without resupplies, had been parked in Singapore waters since Dec 3, according to Singapore Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan.
Mr Khaw told reporters on Dec 6 that there had been 14 incursions into Singapore waters in the two weeks before then, after Malaysia extended its Johor Bahru Port Limits in October.
On Dec 7, Malaysia proposed that both countries "cease and desist" from sending assets into what it called a "disputed area", adding that the action would be undertaken without prejudice to either country's position on maritime boundary claims.
But later that day Singapore rejected the proposal, reiterating the repeated intrusions by Malaysian vessels and stating that "attempts to create facts on the ground add nothing to Malaysia’s legal case and are unhelpful for an amicable resolution of our maritime boundary issues".
At their meeting on Tuesday, however, ministers Balakrishnan and Saifuddin welcomed the "positive steps that both sides had agreed on to move these matters forward in a calm and constructive manner".
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