Shipping transfer hub under state’s jurisdiction, Johor exco insists

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad witnesses the signing ceremony between KA Petra chairman Datuk Shahrul Amirul and Hutchinson Port Holdings Limited group managing director Eric Ip in Putrajaya April 2, 2019. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad witnesses the signing ceremony between KA Petra chairman Datuk Shahrul Amirul and Hutchinson Port Holdings Limited group managing director Eric Ip in Putrajaya April 2, 2019. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim

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JOHOR BARU, April 5 — A state executive council member sought to assert the state’s rights over the ship-to-ship (STS) transfer hub here, maintaining that Johor’s legal consent was needed under the Federal Constitution.

Johor International Trade, Investment and Utility Committee chairman Jimmy Puah noted that Section 3(1) of the Territorial Sea Act 2012 endorses the definition of territorial sea as set by the 1982 Law of the Sea at 12 nautical miles, whereas Section 3 (3) limited the state’s jurisdiction to three nautical miles.

Despite the transfer hub operating 3.5 nautical miles away from the coast, however, he argued that Article 2 of the Federal Constitution stipulates that while Parliament may legally alter the boundaries to any state, this was not effective without the state legislature and Conference of Rulers' consent.

“Land and water jurisdictions are sacrosanct to the state as enshrined under the Federal Constitution and we are reminded to always be vigilant and defend our state’s right should any party seek to challenge our sovereignty,” said Puah in a statement today.

Puah said he is unaware of any motion or enactment passed in the Johor Legislative Assembly on this matter or royal ascent from the sultan.

The Bukit Batu assemblyman argued that this meant the state’s water jurisdiction remained 12 nautical miles and not three as stipulated by Section 3 (3), which he asserted to be unconstitutional until it is validated by the state assembly and ruler.

Yesterday, Johor Public Works, Infrastructure and Transportation Committee chairman Mazlan Bujang said the federal government need not inform the state about the project as it is located 3.5 nautical miles off the shoreline.

Puah, a former lawyer and self-professed student of maritime law, disputed this and similar arguments from KA Petra Sdn Bhd chairman Shahrul Amirul whose firm STS will operate the transfer hub’s local office. 

He said his position was supported by precedents in cases involving legal challenges Sabah, Sarawak and Kelantan filed against the specific section of the law.

Separately, pro-Johor youth group Dewan Muda Johor argued that the hub would still be within Johor’s preview as it must maintain an office on land situated within the state.

Its coordinator, Ahmad Solehin Abd Ghani, claimed these must be approved by the state government and agencies such as the Land and Mines Office.

He described the failure to properly notify Johor of the hub as rude and disrespectful.

“I believe that the relationship between the federal government and the state government should be refined and the communication between both governments needs to be improved to prevent such problems from happening in future,” Ahmad Solehin said.

The transfer hub is built via a collaboration between KA Petra and the world largest shipping company, the Hong Kong-based Hutchinson Port Holdings Limited.

It is expected to cost between US$150 million and US$180 million (RM612.60 million and RM735.109 million).

The agreement was signed by both parties in Putrajaya on Tuesday and witnessed by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

The issue emerged after Johor Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim posted on his Facebook page on Sunday to criticise the federal government for not consulting the state over the matter and alleged links between unnamed government leaders and cronies.

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