May 22 (Reuters) - Singapore owns a rocky outcrop it calls Pedra Branca that is near a key shipping lane, the U.N.’s highest court ruled on Friday, settling a protracted dispute between the southeast Asian state and its neighbour Malaysia.
However, the International Court of Justice also ruled Malaysia has sovereignty of another nearby islet known as Middle Rocks and that a third, called South Ledge, belongs to the state in whose territorial waters it is located.
The case could encourage other Asian governments to resolve decades-old maritime disputes in oil-rich waters.
For a related story see [ID:nL23782024].
Here are facts about some of Asia’s maritime disputes.
PULAU BATU PUTEH/PEDRA BRANCA - Malaysia and Singapore
The chain of three rocky outcrops is 15 km (10 miles) off peninsular Malaysia’s southern coast and set in the Strait of Singapore, which in turn is just off the Malacca Strait.
The Malacca Strait a major shipping line that links the Middle East with Asia and carries 40 percent of the world’s trade and 80 percent of Japan’s energy supplies.
The main outcrop, 137 metres by 60 metres, is known as Pulau Batu Puteh in Malaysia and Pedra Branca by Singapore, which has a lighthouse on the island.
NORTHWEST BORNEO - Malaysia/Brunei
Malaysia and Brunei said last year they had reached a tentative pact to end a dispute over the ownership of two large oil exploration blocks off the northwest of Borneo in the South China Sea. The row has stopped deepwater exploration in the area.
In 2003, Malaysian state-owned Petronas [PETR.UL] awarded deepwater blocks L and M to Murphy Oil. But Brunei awarded a production-sharing contract (PSC) to France’s Total for Block J and was negotiating PSC terms with Shell for adjacent Block K.
Murphy made a sizeable discovery in a Malaysian block near the disputed area in 2003 and will produce 120,000 barrels per day by the end of 2008 from the Kikeh field, with the light sweet crude oil now trading at a record high.
GREATER SUNRISE -- East Timor/Australia
The Greater Sunrise gas fields in the Timor Sea are expected to start producing gas by 2012-2014, after a pact by East Timor and Australia to evenly split royalties. The fields are estimated to hold 8 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of gas and up to 300 million barrels of condensate.
Greater Sunrise was frozen in 2004 while waiting for Canberra and Dili to resolve their differences over the revenue split.
There is still debate on whether to transport the gas to Darwin in northern Australia, process it at sea at an offshore plant, or bring it via pipeline to East Timor for export from an onshore liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility.
The project involves Woodside, Royal Dutch/Shell and Japan’s Osaka Gas Co. Ltd.
SPRATLY ISLANDS -- China/Vietnam/Taiwan/Malaysia/Philippines
The national oil companies of China, the Philippines, and Vietnam signed a three-year joint-seismic accord in 2005, to cooperatively assess oil and gas deposits.
Their proximity to nearby oil and gas-producing fields, discovered in the 1960s, bolstered the belief that they harbour rich untapped reserves of oil and gas.
Modern disputes date back to the 1930s, with claims bolstered by references to historical maps and literature. In 1988, China and Vietnam fought a brief naval battle near the Spratly reefs, in which more than 70 Vietnamese sailors died.
PATTANI TROUGH -- Thailand/Cambodia
The Gulf of Thailand is already a gas-producing zone but 27,000 sq km (10,430 sq mile) is disputed between Thailand and Cambodia. It involves no territory.
Thailand produces natural gas but still relies on imports.
Cambodia, which relies on foreign aid, hopes to begin pumping oil from offshore fields in the Gulf of Thailand by 2010.
China’s CNOOC Ltd. said in April last year it had begun producing gas at the Tianwaitian field in the East China Sea despite Japan’s objections to development.
Beijing and Tokyo disagree over the boundary between their exclusive marine economic zones and Japan objects to Chinese development of gas fields near the border, although they are in an undisputed area. Tokyo fears drilling there could inadvertently drain Japanese gas through a honeycomb of seabed rocks.
Japan has proposed to jointly develop the Tianwaitian and Chunxiao gas fields, the Yomiuri newspaper said in February, without citing sources.
China’s state-controlled CNOOC has said it is ready to begin production from the Chunxiao gas field.
Estimated net known reserves in the East China Sea total a relatively modest 180 million barrels of oil equivalent, Japan says.