Singapore Responds to Malaysian Claims over Airspace

 - December 5, 2018, 10:54 AM

Singapore’s Ministry of Transport (MOT) has released a series of documents in response to Malaysia’s objections on Tuesday over the implementation of new instrument landing system (ILS) procedures at the island nation’s Seletar Airport. The move follows statements made by Malaysia’s Transport Minister Anthony Loke, who said the ILS procedures would breach the nation’s sovereignty and “stunt development” around the Pasir Gudang area in Johor, leading to height restrictions on buildings and affecting shipping operations.

Loke initially raised concerns about ILS procedures at Seletar Airport in parliament on Tuesday and said Malaysia would issue a protest note to the Singapore Government over its implementation. He added that Malaysia would reclaim control and management of airspace over Johor state in phases between 2019 and 2023 in the interest of sovereignty.

“it is now the time that we regain the control of our airspace…in Malaysian territory over the years we have upgraded our air traffic control…we want to begin the process of negotiations with our Singapore counterparts,” Loke said in a press conference. “We are not opposing the use of Seletar airport…In terms of the flight path…and approach to Seletar Airport that can be worked out by Singapore authorities using their own airspace.”

The documents released by the Singaporean MOT, which include emails and minutes from December 2017, detail correspondence sent by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) to its counterpart in Malaysia, requesting operational feedback on the new ILS procedures. According to Singapore, Malaysia’s Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) failed to respond despite repeated requests from CAAS.

Singapore’s MOT has since rejected Malaysia’s claims that the new procedures would impose restrictions on existing airspace and port development on the straits of Johor, stating it published the ILS procedures in line with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) procedures and with bilateral arrangements between the two countries. In one document sent to the DCA, Singapore said it designed the ILS procedures to “take into consideration the existing lateral and vertical limits of the delegated airspace.” It also provided a draft instrument approach chart and an overview chart to the DCA for assessment.

Since 1973, Singapore has overseen parts of Malaysian airspace in Southern Johor under an agreement with Malaysia and regional states. Singapore has also managed airspace in Indonesia over Riau, including the resort islands of Batam and Bintan since 1946.

In response, Singapore’s MOT recognized Malaysia’s willingness to provide air traffic services over Johor and urged the two nations to work together towards an amicable resolution.

“Sovereignty is a fundamental principle of international law. Singapore respects Malaysia’s sovereignty. At the same time, international law is clear that cross-border airspace management is not incompatible with sovereignty,” it said.