Bunga Mas 5 vessel to protect and escort M’sian ships plying the gulf

MUSCAT: Malaysia’s rescue, escort and protection mission in the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden, off the coast of Somalia, continues with the Bunga Mas 5 auxiliary vessel kicking off the 9th Ops Fajar yesterday.

Ops Fajar combines the strengths of three service units of the Malaysian Armed Forces (MAF), namely the Special Service Group, Naval Special Service Team (Paskal) and Special Air Service Team (Paskau), as well as MISC Berhad crew who were absorbed into the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) Volunteer Reserve Team (PSSTLDM).

The 132.8-metre long and 22.7-metre wide Bunga Mas 5 is commanded by Commander Kuharaj Jayaraj from the PSSTLDM for four months.

It left the Sultan Qaboos Port, Oman on its journey via the Gulf of Aden at 10pm last night, local time (Malaysian time: 2am yesterday).

The group is expected to return to Malaysia in June on board the Bunga Mas 5 which will undergo maintenance, but the merchant ships plying the gulf will continue to be given protection by the Special Ops Fajar team comprising Paskal members who will be stationed on the ships.

On Sunday at 3pm (local time), a ceremony to mark the taking-over of duties by the new crew and handing-over of the inventory took place on board the Bunga Mas 5, which is the first Malaysian merchant ship to have been modified as an auxiliary vessel for RMN.

Bunga Mas 5 ship captain for the 8th Ops Fajar, PSSTLDM Commander Mohd Nazri Shariff, 38, said in the operation which started last October, the MAF Ship Protection Team managed to seize back the Bunga Laurel merchant ship and arrested seven Somalian pirates who hijacked the ship on Jan 20 this year.

He said Ops Fajar (Dawn Operation) carried out by the RMN since Aug 29, 2008, proved to be successful as there were no more MISC ships or ships of other parties being hijacked during the period of operation.

“The spirit and cooperation shown by the MAF members and MISC crew since the operation commenced is extraordinary, and this was exemplified during the recovery and rescue mission for the Bunga Laurel ship and crew respectively,” said Mohd Nazri who had also led the 5th Ops Fajar. — Bernama

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