What is Pedra Branca?

Pedra Branca is an island located at the eastern entrance of the Straits of Singapore, about 24 nautical miles east of Singapore. The British colonial government took possession of the island over 160 years ago to build Horsburgh Lighthouse and other structures on it. Since then, Singapore has exercised continuous sovereignty over the entire island and its adjacent waters.

The oldest feature on the island is the Horsburgh Lighthouse, which was built by the British between 1847 and 1851. Today, Pedra Branca also hosts a military rebroadcast station, a helipad, a desalination plant and a communications tower. Pedra Branca is also home to the keepers of Horsburgh Lighthouse.

To the south of Pedra Branca are two maritime features: Middle Rocks and South Ledge. Middle Rocks consists of two clusters of rocks situated 0.6 nautical miles south of Pedra Branca. South Ledge is a low-tide elevation (a feature that is submerged at high tide) further south, 2.1 nautical miles off Pedra Branca. 

Beginnings of the Dispute

In 1979, Malaysia published a map which claimed the island as hers. In response, Singapore lodged a formal protest with Malaysia in early 1980, to assert that Pedra Branca belonged to Singapore. 

As the two sides were unable to resolve the matter through bilateral negotiations, both countries agreed to resolve their differences peacefully through a third party by bringing the territorial dispute to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for decision. Singapore first proposed submitting the dispute to the ICJ in 1989.  Malaysia accepted this proposal in 1994.