Singapore, Malaysia airspace dispute: What we know and timeline

SINGAPORE: Airspace management over southern Johor came into the spotlight on Tuesday (Dec 4), after Singapore and Malaysia traded conflicting views over the issue.

Malaysia’s Transport Minister Anthony Loke said in parliament that the country wants to reclaim its “delegated airspace” in southern Johor, prompting Singapore’s Ministry of Transport to respond with a statement defending the status quo.



Under the current arrangement, management of the airspace over southern Johor is delegated to Singapore, meaning that Singapore provides air traffic control services in that airspace.

This arrangement was agreed upon in 1973 by Malaysia, Singapore and other regional states, and subsequently approved by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). A bilateral agreement was then signed between Malaysia and Singapore in 1974.

Malaysia says it now wants to reclaim this “delegated airspace”, with Mr Loke citing concerns over sovereignty and the national interest.



READ: Malaysia wants to ‘reclaim delegated airspace’ in southern Johor
READ: Southern Johor airspace arrangements ‘have worked well’, changes will affect many: MOT


Malaysia is also raising concerns about Seletar Airport – specifically, about the Instrument Landing System (ILS) procedures for the airport.

The ILS procedure refers to an assisted navigational aviation facility at the airport which provides vertical and horizontal guidance to pilots while the flight is descending and approaching the runway. 

Protesting the publication of the ILS by Singapore, Malaysia has cited the impact of the Seletar Airport flight path on developments and shipping operations in Pasir Gudang.

READ: Malaysia’s desire to take back airspace ‘not a straightforward decision’: Khaw Boon Wan


However, Singapore has said that the ILS simply puts on paper the existing flight paths, making safety rules clearer and more transparent.

Singapore’s Ministry of Transport (MOT) has also said that the procedures do not impose any additional impact on other airspace users as well as businesses and residents in Johor.

Singapore has also disputed Malaysia’s claim that the ILS was published without discussion with Malaysia authorities. MOT released documents on Tuesday night showing consultations by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) with its Malaysian counterpart.


Dec 5, 2017: CAAS presents the implementation plan for ILS procedures at Seletar during a meeting between Singapore and Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur, according to an extract of minutes.

In the meeting, CAAS also said that a new passenger terminal building would be constructed at Seletar Airport in preparation for Malaysian Airlines subsidiary Firefly to operate to and from Subang.

Dec 6, 2017: CAAS emails information about the ILS procedures, including a draft instrument approach chart and an overview map, to the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) for its assessment prior to publication of the procedures.

Jun 6, 2018: CAAS emails its Malaysian counterpart saying that it would like to publish the ILS procedures, with the procedures to be effective on Aug 16, 2018.

Aug 7, 2018: CAAS says its management met with CAAM management and provided more details on the ILS procedures. CAAS also requested”urgent operational feedback”, it said.

Aug 15, 2018: CAAS says it sent an email to follow up on the Aug 7 meeting stressing the “urgency of the matter”, and requested CAAM’s response by Aug 27. There was no reply, says CAAS.

Nov 28 and Nov 29, 2018: The two authorities meet in Singapore, and CAAM raises technical concerns with the ILS procedures, says CAAS. It adds that it addressed these concerns, and “conveyed its intentions” to publish the procedures on Dec 1.

Nov 30, 2018: The two meet in Kuala Lumpur to discuss the records of the previous day’s meeting. CAAM did not raise new concerns, says CAAS.

Dec 4, 2018: Mr Loke speaks in parliament, says Malaysia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs will send a statement of protest to Singapore over what he described as a “violation” of principle, referring to Singapore’s publication of ILS procedures.

Speaking to reporters later, Mr Loke also says he met recently with Singapore’s Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan, and gave him a “heads-up” that Malaysia intends to negotiate the retaking of the airspace over southern Johor.

Singapore’s Ministry of Transport issues a statement in response, saying that current arrangements have benefitted both Singapore and Malaysia, and that any changes will impact many stakeholders.

With regard to the ILS procedure publication, it received “no substantive response” from the CAAM “despite repeated reminders”, until late November this year.

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