The Pedra Branca dispute was a territorial dispute between Singapore and Malaysia over several islets at the eastern entrance: Transport and Distribution Management Case Study, UniKL, Malaysia

University Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL)
Subject Transport and Distribution Management
  • Case study 1

The Pedra Branca dispute was a territorial dispute between Singapore and Malaysia over several islets at the eastern entrance to the Singapore Strait, namely Pedra Branca (previously called Pulau Batu Puteh and now Batu Puteh by Malaysia), Middle Rocks and South Ledge. The dispute began in 1979 and was largely resolved by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2008, which opined that Pedra Branca belonged to Singapore and Middle Rocks belonged to Malaysia. Sovereignty over South Ledge belongs to the state in the territorial waters in which it is located.

In early 1980, Singapore lodged a formal protest with Malaysia in response to a map published by Malaysia in 1979 claiming Pedra Branca. In 1989 Singapore proposed submitting the dispute to the ICJ. Malaysia agreed to this in 1994. In 1993, Singapore also claimed the nearby islets Middle Rocks and South Ledge. In 1998 the two countries agreed on the text of a Special Agreement that was needed to submit the dispute to the ICJ. The Special Agreement was signed in February 2003, and the ICJ formally notified of the Agreement in July that year. The hearing before the ICJ was held over three weeks in November 2007 under the name Sovereignty over Pedra Branca/Pulau Batu Puteh, Middle Rocks and South Ledge (Malaysia v. Singapore).

Singapore argued that Pedra Branca was terra nullius and that there was no evidence the island had ever been under the sovereignty of the Johor Sultanate. In the event the Court did not accept this argument, Singapore contended that sovereignty over the island had passed to Singapore due to the consistent exercise of authority over the island by Singapore and its predecessor, the United Kingdom. The actions taken included selecting Pedra Branca as the site for Horsburgh Lighthouse and constructing the lighthouse, requiring Malaysian officials wishing to visit the island to obtain permits, installing a military rebroadcast station on the island, and studying the feasibility of reclaiming land around the island. Malaysia had remained silent in the face of these activities. In addition, it had confirmed in a 1953 letter that Johor did not claim ownership of the island, and had published official reports and maps indicating that it regarded Pedra Branca as Singapore territory. Middle Rocks and South Ledge should be regarded as dependencies of Pedra Branca.

Malaysia’s case was that Johor had the original title to Pedra Branca, Middle Rocks and South Ledge. Johor had not ceded Pedra Branca to the United Kingdom but had merely granted permission for the lighthouse to be built and maintained on it. The actions of the United Kingdom and Singapore in respect of the Horsburgh Lighthouse and the waters surrounding the island were not actions of the island’s sovereign. Further, the 1953 letter had been unauthorised and the official reports and maps it had issued were either irrelevant or inconclusive.

On 23 May 2008, the Court ruled that Pedra Branca is under Singapore’s sovereignty, while Middle Rocks belongs to Malaysia. As regards South Ledge, the Court noted that it falls within the overlapping territorial waters generated by mainland Malaysia, Pedra Branca and Middle Rocks. As it is a maritime feature visible only at low tide, it belongs to the state in the territorial waters in which it is located. Malaysia and Singapore have established what they have named the Joint Technical Committee to delimit the maritime boundary in the area around Pedra Branca and Middle Rocks, and to determine the ownership of South Ledge.

Pedra Branca is a small granite outcrop located 25 nautical miles (46 km; 29 mi) east of Singapore and 7.7 nautical miles   (14.3 km;   8.9 mi)   south of Johor,   Malaysia, where the Singapore Strait meets the South China Sea. There are two maritime features near the island: Middle Rocks, 0.6 nautical miles (1.1 km; 0.69 mi) south of Pedra Branca, which consists of two clusters of small rocks about 250 metres (820 ft) apart; and South Ledge, 2.2 nautical miles (4.1 km; 2.5 mi) south-south-west of Pedra Branca, which is visible only at low tide.

Singapore has been administering Pedra Branca since Horsburgh Lighthouse was built on the island by its predecessor, the United Kingdom, between 1850 and 1851. Singapore was ceded by Sultan Hussein Shah and Temenggung Abdul Rahman Sri Maharajah of Johor to the British East India Company under a Treaty of   Friendship and   Alliance of   2   August   1824 (the Crawfurd Treaty), and became part of the Straits Settlements in 1826. At the time when the lighthouse on the island was constructed, the Straits Settlements were under British rule through the Government of India.

On 21 December 1979, the Director of National Mapping of Malaysia published a map entitled Territorial Waters and Continental Shelf Boundaries of Malaysia showing Pedra Branca to be within its territorial waters. Singapore rejected this “claim” in a diplomatic note of 14 February 1980 and asked for the map to be corrected. In the late 1980s, Attorney-General of Singapore Tan Boon Teik was despatched by the Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew to disclose the documentary evidence that Singapore had to the Malaysian Attorney-General, to demonstrate the strength of Singapore’s case. However, the dispute was not resolved by an exchange of correspondence and intergovernmental talks in 1993 and 1994. In the first round of talks in February 1993 the issue of sovereignty over Middle Rocks and South Ledge was also raised. Malaysia and Singapore, therefore, agreed to submit the dispute to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

The ICJ noted that under certain circumstances, sovereignty over territory may pass due to the failure of the state which has sovereignty to respond to the other state’s conduct à titre de souverain, that is, concrete manifestations of the display of territorial sovereignty by the other state. Because there was no written agreement relating to Horsburgh Lighthouse and Pedra Branca, the Court was unable to determine whether the November 1844 replies by the Sultan and Temenggung of Johor to Governor Butterworth’s query amounted to a cession of the place that would be chosen for the site of the lighthouse or was merely a permission to build, maintain and operate a lighthouse there. Although the Governor had indicated in his 28 November 1844 letter to the Secretary of the Government in India to recommend that the replies amounted to a gratuitous cession to the East India Company, this understanding was not communicated to the Sultan and Temenggung. Similarly, the fact that Britain had not informed Johor about its decision to site the lighthouse on Pedra Branca might be seen either as recognition that Britain only had consent to build and operate it, or that Johor no longer had rights over the island. On the evidence adduced, the Court was unable to conclude the issue. It also did not draw any conclusions about the construction and commissioning of the lighthouse, stating only that it saw the events as “bearing on the issue of the evolving views of the authorities in Johor and Singapore about sovereignty over Pedra Branca/Pulau Batu Puteh”. It noted, though, that apart from a two-day visit by the Temenggung and his followers to the island in early June 1850, Johor had no involvement in the project.

The Court declined to accept Malaysia’s argument that the Singapore Colonial Secretary’s query about the status of Pedra Branca in 1953 indicated that the United Kingdom had no conviction that the island was part of its territory. It felt the letter of inquiry showed the Singapore authorities were not clear about events that had occurred over a century earlier and that they were unsure their records were complete, which was understandable in the circumstances. It also disagreed that the Acting State Secretary of Johor, who had stated in his letter of reply that Johor did not claim ownership of the island, had acted without authority. The Johor Agreement was irrelevant – as the Colonial Secretary was a representative of the United Kingdom government, which was not a foreign state about Johor at the time, there was no question of the United Kingdom having to consent to Johor issuing the reply. The Federation of Malaya Agreement also did not assist Malaysia because the action of responding to a request for information was not an “exercise” of “executive authority”. Further, since Malaysia had not invoked this argument in its negotiations with Singapore and the ICJ proceedings until late in the oral phase, Singapore was entitled to presume that the Acting State Secretary had acted within his authority. The meaning of the reply was clear – as of 1953, Johor understood it did not have sovereignty over Pedra Branca, and thus the Singapore authorities had no reason to doubt that the island belonged to the United Kingdom.

The Court regarded as conduct à titre de souverain Singapore’s investigation of six shipwrecks in the vicinity of Pedra Branca between 1920 and 1993, its exclusive control over visits to the island, the installation of the military rebroadcast station on the island in 1977, and the proposed reclamation of land around it. Malaysia was correct in asserting that the flying of an ensign was not normally a manifestation of sovereignty and that the difference in size between Pulau Pisang and Pedra Branca had to be recognised. Nonetheless, some weight could be given to the fact that Malaysia had not requested for the Singapore ensign flying at Horsburgh Lighthouse to be taken down. The fact that Malaysia had referred to the lighthouse as a Singapore station in the 1959 and 1966 meteorological reports and had omitted it from the 1967 Malaysian report favoured Singapore’s case.

The maps published by Malaysia between 1962 and 1975 tended to confirm that it considered Pedra Branca to fall under Singapore’s sovereignty. The “(SINGAPORE)” or “(SINGAPURA)” annotations on the maps in respect of the island were clear and supported Singapore’s case.

The maps gave a good indication of Malaysia’s official position on the matter and could amount to an admission. Finally, Malaysia could not rely on the disclaimers on the maps as the present matter did not concern a boundary but a distinct island. In any case, the maps were statements of geographical fact, particularly since Malaysia had produced and disseminated them against its interest. Given the above, the Court held that by 1980 sovereignty over Pedra Branca had passed from Malaysia to Singapore.

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  • Questions 
  1. Wajarkan kesan terhadap keseluruhan operasi Pelabuhan Johor akibat ‘Kawasan Kelabu’ selepas Malaysia kehilangan pemilikan Batu Putih kepada Singapura.
  2. Tentukan yang mungkin akan berlaku pada masa hadapan berdasarkan kenyataan ini ‘Sumber industri yang mengetahui perkara itu berkata perubahan Malaysia terhadap had Pelabuhan Johor adalah dalam wilayah maritim yang dituntutnya, tetapi yang tidak diiktiraf oleh kerajaan Singapura’
  • Case study 2

The COVID-19 pandemic had a large impact on public transport. Many countries advised that public transport should only be used when essential; passenger numbers fell drastically, and services were reduced. Provision of a reasonable service for the much smaller number of fare-paying passengers incurred large financial losses. Protective measures such as obligatory mask-wearing and spacing of passengers where possible were introduced, and ventilation and sanitation (disinfection) were implemented. Protection required passengers and operators to make any changes to the way they operated and behaved.

It was suggested in March 2021 that the use of public transport had led to the spread of COVID-19. There has been little evidence that mass transit poses a risk of covid infection. According to Santé Publique France (Public Health France) in June 2020, none of the 150 clusters of infection studied was due to public transport; it was suggested that spacing passengers out, mask-wearing, and disinfection of surfaces helped this. Also, people talk and move little, especially when travelling alone. By October 2020 according to the Union Internationale des Transports Publics (UITP), there was evidence that, when appropriate measures are implemented, the risk of catching COVID-19 in public transport is very low. The UITP article said that analysis in the UK by the industry-funded Rail Research and Safety Board (RSSB) found that the probability of catching covid on a rail journey was 1 in 11,000 journeys. Later figures have not been released, but are believed to be significantly higher, and expected to increase with the relaxation of covid restrictions in July 2021.

Modelling at the US University of Colorado Boulder in North America found that the risk of being infected in a well-ventilated metro, or a bus, with minimal talking and movement is 0% after 70 minutes. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance documents on COVID-19 protective measures for passengers and operators of public transportation and hire cars with drivers, updated from time to time. Much of the CDC advice is of general applicability in non-US jurisdictions. Non-essential travel is to be avoided. Drivers and passengers should (or in some jurisdictions must) wear face coverings, avoid frequently touched surfaces, and sit at least six feet apart if possible. To protect bus drivers, passengers can enter and exit through a door far from the driver. Avoid handling cash or payment cards. Frequently touched surfaces should be routinely cleaned. Signage and other visual cues such

as decals and tape can alert passengers on appropriate COVID-19 precautions and seat designations. Travellers are encouraged to carry hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes with them. Necessary travel is best done during non-peak hours when passengers can be spaced further apart.

Researchers investigate safe ways of public transport during the COVID-19 pandemic. A study finds that mandatory face masks and social distancing can allow for relatively safe public transport – in particular otherwise contemporary ways, established types, designs, and procedures of public transport – during the COVID-19 pandemic, reducing infection rates by 93.5% and 98.1% in tracking-based simulations of common contemporary forms of public transport during congestion peak-hour. On 23 January 2020, the entire Wuhan Metro network was shut down, along with all other public transport in the city, including the national railway and air travel, to halt the spread of the virus.

On January 24, 2020, the day after the lockdown was declared in the city of Wuhan, the Beijing Subway began testing the body temperature of passengers at the entry points of 55 subway stations including the three main railway stations and the capital airport. Temperature checks were expanded to all subway stations by January 27. To further control the spread of the virus, certain Line 6 trains were outfitted with smart surveillance cameras that can detect passengers who are not wearing masks. On 28 March 2020, six lines of Wuhan Metro resumed operation, after a two-month lockdown.

China has largely contained the COVID-19 outbreak since June 2020, allowing for subway ridership and service to gradually recover to pre-pandemic levels. Several subway systems such as the Changsha Metro and Hefei Metro posted ridership growth in 2020 due to the opening of new lines. Several Chinese metro networks broke historic daily ridership records on 2020’s New Year’s Eve. Overall annual ridership of major Chinese public transport systems fell around 35% in 2020 compared to pre-pandemic ridership.

Restrictions have been implemented on public transport in Jakarta, Indonesia. Transportation Ministry Greater Jakarta Transportation Agency (BPTJ) head Polana B. Pramesti said that Jakarta, in particular, had initiated various restrictions including transportation restrictions in March. “After the official, large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) status it can be ascertained that public transportation user numbers have declined as people’s mobility has been limited,” she

added. In the Philippines, public transportation has been suspended in Luzon as part of the implementing measures of the enhanced community quarantine. In the absence of public transport, citizens could only resort to using their private vehicle, but the critical role played by public transport cannot be replaced fully by private vehicles. In June, several regions in Luzon that were previously in enhanced community quarantine were downgraded to general community quarantine, allowing the use of public transportation in a limited capacity and subject to social distancing protocols.

On 20 March, free public transportation for people 65 years of age or older was temporarily suspended in Balıkesir, Konya, and Malatya to encourage them to stay at home. A day later, similar measures started to be imposed in Ankara, Antalya, and İzmir. On 24 March, it was announced that public vehicles that work in and across the cities could fill up only 50% of their capacity with people at a time. By April 2020, Dublin Airport was only running repatriation flights, or those with vital supplies (a reduction of more than 95% from the same week in 2019); Cork Airport was reduced to three return flights each day, all of which went to and from London, the first of which left at 4 pm and the last returning at 7:30 pm; Ireland West Airport had no commercial flights and both daily flights to and from Kerry Airport went to Dublin.

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On 27 March, the National Transport Authority announced that operators of public transport services are to move to a new schedule of services on a phased basis from 30 March. Revised timetables for Iarnród Éireann came into effect on 30 March, while those for Dublin Bus, Go-Ahead Ireland, and Bus Éireann, came into effect on 1 April. Under the revised timetables, services ran at approximately 80% of current levels. Many public transport timetables returned to normal by 29 June, but social distancing requirements meant that overall passenger capacity remained restricted. On 10 July, the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly signed regulations to make the wearing of face coverings mandatory on public transport, which came into effect on 13 July. Those who refuse to comply with regulations can face fines of up to €2,500 and a possible jail sentence of six months. Figures from the National Transport Authority showed levels of compliance of between 70% and 95% on buses, trains, and trams. Bus Éireann reported a compliance rate of 95% on its services, Iarnród Éireann said it was 90%, Dublin Bus reported a rate of about 80% and Luas said it was between 75% and 80%.On

On 21 July, the Department of Health announced that face shields will be accepted as an alternative to face-covering on public transport.

In 2020 bus, air, and train services were reduced in the United Kingdom. Initially, public transport use declined by around 90% in London since the national coronavirus lockdown was implemented. London’s mayor Sadiq Khan made all bus travel free from 20 April and told passengers to only board by the middle doors in a bid to protect bus drivers, after 20 of them and several TfL employees died from Coronavirus. Bus travel fares were reinstated from 23 May, after a conditional bailout of Transport for London by the Department for Transport. From 15 June it became compulsory to wear a face-covering on public transport in England. Throughout the pandemic, people had been told not to use public transport for non-essential travel, to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and allow for social distancing in carriages, for those who were unable to work from home. This advice was rescinded on 17 July 2020, in advance of further easing of lockdown measures, including the removal of work from home advice.

Based on data released by Moovit, the United Kingdom saw a significant decrease in the use of public transport during April 2020. This included an 80% per cent decrease in London and South East, 79% in Yorkshire, 71% in West Midlands, 80% in the South West, 76% in the North West, and 78% in Scotland.   This caused severe financial problems;   for example, Transport for London (TfL) in May 2020 applied for £2 billion in state aid to continue operating until September, having lost 90% of its income. The recording year April 2020 to March 2021 had the fewest UK rail journeys since records began in 1872. Many restrictions on travel were to be relaxed on 19 July 2021. In particular, the law no longer mandated social distancing and use of face coverings, although many travel operators continued to require face coverings.

In July 2020 the industry-funded Rail Research and Safety Board (RSSB) to be one infection in 11,000 journeys found the risk of rail travel. As of July 2021, the RSSB continues to present an average risk figure fortnightly to rail executives; this figure is not divulged publicly. Senior rail executives and Department for Transport officials are known to have been presented with figures showing the risk increases significantly. While there has been pressure from passenger groups to release data so that travellers can make informed decisions, in July 2021 the RSSB said only that the risks of transmission on trains are “tolerably low”. It is thought to be much higher on long-distance journeys. Relaxation of covid controls later that month would lead to

increasing passenger numbers, and the abolition of the legal requirement for face coverings was expected to cause a further increase.

According to Government Technology, “Steep declines in ridership during the crisis have pushed public transit systems across the U.S. into deep financial distress.” Kim Hart of Axios wrote, “Public transit systems across the country are experiencing a painful trifecta: Ridership has collapsed, funding streams are squeezed, and mass transit won’t bounce back from the pandemic nearly as fast as other modes of transportation.” In Detroit, DDOT bus services were cancelled after drivers refused to work. The Verge reported an 18.65 per cent ridership decline on the New York City Subway system on March 11 compared to one year prior. New York City Bus ridership decreased 15 per cent, Long Island Rail Road ridership decreased 31 per cent, and Metro-North Railroad ridership decreased 48 per cent. Sound Transit, operating in the Seattle metropolitan area, saw a 25 per cent decrease in ridership in February compared to January, and the city’s ferry ridership saw a 15 per cent decline on March 9 compared to one week prior. These declines became much more pronounced in late March and April, as widespread closures of schools and businesses and ‘shelter-in-place’ orders began to be implemented. USA Today reported in mid-April that demand for transit service was down by an average of 75 per cent nationwide, with figures of 85% in San Francisco and 60% in Philadelphia. Ridership on the Washington Metro was down 95 per cent in late April.

On April 7, SEPTA mandated that Philadelphia transit users wear face masks starting on April

  1. On April 13, the agency said the rule would not be enforced. On June 8, SEPTA again mandated that riders wear face masks. To prevent the spread of the virus on board buses and rail vehicles, some transit agencies have implemented temporary limits on the number of passengers allowed on a vehicle and others have begun to require riders to wear face masks. To reduce contact between drivers and passengers, several agencies have implemented rear-door-only boarding and temporarily suspended the collection of fares, examples including Seattle, New York City buses, and Denver.

Beginning March 25, service on buses and subways was reduced due to decreased ridership during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City. In April 2020, four City Council members requested that the subway service be temporarily suspended due to the spread of COVID-19 in the subway system. In late March, NYCTA Interim President Sarah

Feinberg stated that a shutdown “feels misguided to me” and was “not on the table”. Feinberg also spoke in favour of hazard pay for front-line workers. The following month, Feinberg called the MTA “the most aggressive transit agency in the country in acting quickly and decisively to protect our workforce.” Starting in May 2020, stations were closed overnight for cleaning; the overnight closures would be a temporary measure that would be suspended once the pandemic was over. By April 22, 2020, COVID-19 had killed 83 agency employees; the agency announced that their families would be eligible for $500,000 in death benefits. By May 1, 98 transit workers had died.

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