I Made Arsana,


On 10 March, the foreign ministers of Indonesia and Singapore signed an agreement delimiting the maritime boundary between the two nations. The agreement was signed in Jakarta after about five years of negotiation. It is the first new boundary to be ratified since the signature of their first maritime boundary agreement on 25 March 1973.

The agreement delimits the territorial sea boundary between Indonesia and Singapore in the western side of Singapore Strait. It continues the boundary line agreed in 1973.

The 1973 treaty defined the boundary between Singapore and Palau Batam in Indonesia using six turning points, starting at Point 1 in the west and ending with Point 6 in the east. They have managed to define three new points – 1A, 1B and 1C – to extent the line further to the west.

It is a positive step. The new agreement was reached by negotiation rather than by the International Court of Justice. The court is an established part of maritime boundary settlement, but it means the parties in question lose control of the case. Instead, they have to let the court make interpretations and judgements, the result of which is sometimes unexpected. In addition, the court may take a long time to resolve a case, which may become expensive. The sovereignty dispute between Indonesia and Malaysia over Sipadan and Ligitan Islands cost about $1.4 million.

The Indonesia/Singapore agreement is significant for two reasons. The parties agreed to apply the Indonesian archipelagic baseline. One basepoint of the archipelagic baseline, from which the new boundary line was constructed, is located on Pulau Nipah, which was excessively mined for its sand. This means that Pulau Nipah is recognised as an island pursuant to the criteria set in the Article 121 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982, which is eligible to be a basepoint. If the island had been submerged because of sand mining, the boundary might have been different, with probable disadvantage for Indonesia.

Secondly, the new agreement uses the World Geodetic System 1984 (WGS’84) datum, making it compatible with GPS technology. The 1973 agreement does not specify a geodetic datum, which means the co-ordinates are geospatially meaningless. Consequently, the points of boundary cannot be realised in the field. From a legal perspective, this may cause problems or difficulties for enforcing the law. For example, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to tell that a vessel or boat had commited a border crossing. Specifying a definitive geodetic datum in the new agreement should help to avoid these and similar problems.

The next step will be to extend the existing line eastwards, starting from Point 6 of the 1973 agreement. This will involve not only Indonesia and Singapore, but also Malaysia. The three states will likely base the delimitation on the Law of the Sea, since all three are party to it. Two important considerations will be:
1. the use of a baseline for the reference of defining maritime jurisdiction, and
2. the sovereignty status of three rock islands in the Singapore Strait and their role in maritime boundary delimitation.

Indonesia, ideally, will stick to the use of archipelagic baselines, the line enclosing the whole archipelago by connecting the outermost points of the outlying islands. Singapore seems to use its normal baseline, the line depicting coastline prior to reclamation. Malaysia is also likely to use its normal baseline, based on low tide. However, Malaysia may propose the use of other kinds of baseline, which Indonesia and Singapore may need to anticipate.

Before negotiations begin however, the court needs to make a decision on the status of South Ledge, which lies between Singapore and Malaysia. Recently, it gave Pedra Branca to Singapore and Middle Rock to Malaysia. Once the fate of all three points is known, it will be possible to draw baselines and begin the real work of negotiation.

For Indonesia, the agreement with Singapore is the second maritime boundary agreement achieved in the 21st century. The first one is an agreement with Vietnam, signed on 26 June 2003, delimiting their continental shelf (seabed) in the South China Sea.

Notwithstanding the difficulty of border diplomacy, Indonesia has been actively delimiting its maritime boundaries. This agreement with Singapore is the latest addition to Indonesia’s list of achievements. The archipelago nation now has boundaries defined, partially or fully, with India, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea, and Australia. Some of the agreements are incomplete because they only concern continental shelf (seabed) rather than water column (exclusive economic zone).

Indonesia is in negotiation, or preparing to negotiate with the remaining bordering states of the Philippines, Palau and Timor Leste.


My Note.

Yang aku rada heran, batas baru ini ko semua mengambil batas kepulauan terluar Indonesia disitu? semestinya garis itu adalah garia batas laut teritori indonesia, namun bukn batas negara, karena batas negara jika jaraknya kurang dari sekian mil (include kasus dengan singapur), maka garis batas ada median line atau garis tengah dari garis terluar kedua belah negar.