Strait of Johore
Strait of Johor, or Johor Straits, is a waterway or strait, located north of Singapore, dividing mainland Peninsula Malaysia and Singapore, and marking the border between the two countries. A 1927 "Territorial Waters Agreement" specified an 'imaginary line' in the Johore Straits as an International boundary, but since 1994, a new boundary line has been drawn to help solve any future border disputes. There are no 'marker buoys' indicating the actual border line, as this deep waterway is also used as a shipping lane.
In 1775, Selat Tebrau is mentioned in A. de Mannevillette's 'Neptune Oriental' Map 49, and referred to as "The Old Straits" in a 1794 Thomas Jefferys Map, and in James Horsburgh's 1806 Chart. In J. B. Tassin's 1837 "Chart of the Singapore Strait" this water-way is indicated as "Old Straits of Singapore". The name Johor Strait did not come to use until the 1890s. It was also called the Tebrau Straits, as Terbrau is the nearest district town, South of Johore. A primitive people, called the Orang Seletar, roamed the northern creeks of Singapore along the present Johore Strait, until the 1850s when the area became more inhabited by other locals.
It is 50 km long between the Republic of Singapore and the region of Johore at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. It is crossed by a rail and road causeway linking Johore Bharu in Malaysia with Woodlands in Singapore.
The International Passageway
This deep waterway is also used as a shipping lane. In colonial times, the British had their Naval Base at Sembawang on the strait, and on 2 December 1941, famous warships like the H. M. S. Prince of Wales and H. M. S. Repulse made a stopover here during World War II.. The Johor Straits has also witnessed many battle onslaughts between the British and Commonwealth Forces, against the Forces of the Imperial Japanese Army in the "Battle for Singapore", prior to Singapore's fall into Japanese hands.
First Border Agreement
In 1927, a "Territorial Waters Agreement" was made between the Straits Settlements and the Government of the State of Johor. This Treaty specified an 'imaginary line' in the Johor Straits as an International boundary between Johor and Singapore.
Latest Border Agreement
With the shifting of this deep water channel, and land reclamation on both Singapore and Johor, it would one day be difficult to determine the 'actual boundary' along certain stretches of the strait's' deep water channel, and it became imperative for both sides to review the 1927 "Territorial Waters Agreement" which specified the vague but valid 'imaginary line' as the border. Both countries then decided that a formal agreement on a definite, final boundary line, would solve 'border disputes' should they arise in future. To properly demarcate it, surveys began in the early 1980s. On 14 October 1994, after talks spanning 14 years between Malaysia and Singapore, and on their seventh meeting, the "Boundary Agreement" was finalised on the "Demarcation of the Boundary" in the Strait of Johor. This new boundary was drawn through precise co-ordinates based on the results of joint hydrographic surveys to determine territorial waters. So, any border disputes arising in future, can easily be resolved. As the strait is used for shipping, there are no 'marker buoys' that indicate the actual border line for safety reasons.
This waterway has always been a natural boundary dividing Singapore and Malaysia. The first cross-country link over the Strait of Johor, between Singapore and Malaysia, is the Singapore-Johor Causeway located at the northern region of Singapore. Development of the Causeway began towards the end of 1919 at a cost of S$17 million. Until the construction of the Singapore-Johor causeway in 1924, crossing over to Malaya was by ferry boat. It was officially opened on 28 June 1924 by Governor Sir Laurence Guillemard, in the presence of His Royal Highness the Sultan of Johor. Today it marks the border of Singapore and Malaysia and is symbol of the close relationship between the two countries.
There are 17 rivers that flow into the Johor Straits from Singapore namely :
- Sungei Sembawang
- Sungei Buloh Kechil
- Sungei Buloh Besar
- Sungei Simpang
- Sungei Melayu
- Sungei Perempan Besar
- Sungei China
- Sungei Mandai
- Sungei Kechil
- Sungei Simpang
- Sungei Khatib Bongsu
- Sungei Gedong
- Sungei Ponggol
- Sungei Serangoon
- Sungei Batu Kekek
- Sungei Besar
- Sungei Mamam.
Two other rivers that used to flow into the strait are Sungei Kranji, which has been turned into Kranji Reservoir, and Sungei Seletar which has become Seletar Reservoir.
The islands situated at this waterway, namely:
- Pulau Ubin
- Pulau Tekong Besar
- Pulau Tekong Kechil
- Coney Island Pulau Buloh
- Pulau Sarimbun
- Pulau Ponggol Barat
- Pulau Ponggol Timor
- Pulau Serangoon
- Pulau Pergam
- Pulau Unum
- Pulau Damien
- Pulau Seletar.
(1) It was originally called Selat Tebrau, where Tebrau is a Malay reference to a species of large fish found there; selat means "strait". The earliest reference is from E. Godinho de Eredia's 1604 Map where it was spelt Salat Tubro
(2) Terbrau is also a large kind of prairie-grass.
(3) It is now commonly known as Selat Johore previously spelt "The Strait of Johore".
Other English Names
Also known as "The Old Straits" in some old maps. Today it is known as the Johor Straits.
Bogaars, G. (1956). Tanjong Pagar Dock Company 1864-1905 (pp. 6, 54, 70, 73, 74) [Microfilm: NL 10999]. Singapore: G. P. P.
(Call no.: RCLOS 959.51 BOG)
Ramachandra, S. (1961). Singapore landmarks, past and present (p. 23). Singapore: Eastern Universities Press.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 RAM)
Turnbull, C. M. (1989). A History of Singapore: 1819-1988 (2nd. ed.) (pp. 5, 37). Singapore: Oxford University Press.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR)
Johor Straits border pact ends 14 year S'pore-KL talks (1994, October 15) [Microfilm: NL 19582]. The Business Times (Singapore), p. 3.
Pang, H. Y. (1994, October 15). KL & Singapore agree on territorial lines after 14 years [Microfilm: NL 20037]. New Straits Times, p. 7.
Pact on boundary in Straits of Johor (1994, October 15) [Microfilm: NL 19556]. The Straits Times, p. 1.
The information in this article is valid as at 1999 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.