The boatpeople - most likely Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in Burma's Rakhine province - were plucked from the Andaman Sea by the Vietnam-registered Nosco Victory about 6pm on December 5.
Singapore's Maritime and Port Authority told Australian newspaper correspondent Lindsay Murdoch today that the rescue ship could not dock because the people on board the vessel ''do not appear to be persons eligible to enter Singapore.''
The 40 who were rescued by the Nosco Victory and nine others taken onto a second ship were believed to be the only survivors among 207 people who were on the stricken vessel when it sank.
They were in the water for 30 hours before being picked up. When last observed, according to the report in 'The Sydney Morning Herald,' the Nosco Victory remained at anchor off Singapore.
The Singapore authorities claimed the ship should have sailed for the nearest port rather than continuing on its planned course to Singapore after picking up the survivors.
The Singapore government, like Thailand, Malaysia and Burma a member of Asean, is known to cooperate with Thailand on aerial surveillance of the Andaman Sea and to share some information about the movement of unwelcome refugee boats.
Phuketwan understands the Asean governments of the Andaman Sea region are reluctant to involve themselves in the Rohingya issue - even though some observers now classify what's happening to the Rohingya inside Burma as genocide.
The Singapore rejection is likely to bring further attention to the attitude of Asean countries and probably trigger criticism of the region's lack of commitment to international human rights.
Singapore is a prosperous first-world city state but compassion has never been one of its strong points.
If the survivors are confirmed as Rohingya, as seems likely, it will be the fourth sinking of Rohingya boats since october 30.
More people are fleeing Burma by sea than in any previous ''sailing season'' because of so-called community violence that has seen at least 170 killings and thousands of homes burned to the ground since June.
The Aljazeera television news service screened a controversial 50-minute documentary entitled 'The Hidden Genocide' at the weekend and three Rohingya boats carring hundreds of men and boys landed in Thailand yesterday.
News of Singapore's refusal to allow the rescue vessel to dock on a technicality will alarm observers in Washington, where a regional answer to the race-hate Rohingya issue is being actively encouraged.
US President Barack Obama made a historic visit to Burma last month and called for an end to violence.
''Our history shows us that hatred in the human heart can recede; that the lines between races and tribes fade away,'' he said in a memorable speech.
Perhaps copies of what the president had to say should be distributed more widely in Singapore.
The official statement from the MPA reads:
''The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) received a Pre-Arrival Notification that the Vietnam-registered bulk carrier MV Nosco Victory would be calling at the Port of Singapore. MPA also received a report from MRCC Port Blair [in the Andaman and Nicobar islands] that MV Nosco Victory had rescued a total of 40 persons from the sea off the coast of Myanmar.
''Taking into consideration the safety and security of the ship, and following consultations with MPA, MRCC Port Blair advised the shipmaster of MV Nosco Victory to proceed to the nearest place of safety to disembark the rescued persons. The Master ignored these suggestions to proceed to the nearest place of safety, and insisted on proceeding to Singapore as its next port of call, which would take at least three days of sailing time from the point of rescue.
''As information provided by the vessel's Master concerning the rescued persons is sketchy and there is no other official documentation to assist at this point, they do not appear to be persons eligible to enter Singapore.
''Under these circumstances, MV Nosco Victory was denied entry into the Port of Singapore.''