PUTRAJAYA: When Malaysian-registered MT Orkim Harmony disappeared on June 11, 2015, a massive search for the vessel was launched.
The ship belonging to Syarikat Magna Meridian Sdn Bhd was en route from Melaka to the Kuantan Port in Pahang when it disappeared.
Six days into the search, a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) AP-3C Orion reconnaissance aircraft spotted the oil tanker and its cargo of petrol worth RM21 million in the waters of the Gulf of Siam. Its 22 crew, comprising 16 Malaysians, five Indonesians and one Myanmar national were safe though one sustained a minor injury during the ship’s hijacking.
Two days later, eight Indonesians suspected of hijacking the ship were detained by Vietnamese authorities near Tho Chu Island, South Vietnam.
This is the seventh hijacking incident in Malaysian waters, specifically in the South China Sea, and raises questions on the safety of the country’s territorial waters. Despite the number of hijacking cases, Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) deputy director-general Vice-Admiral Maritime Datuk Ahmad Puzi Ab Kahar assured that safety in the Straits of Malacca, South China Sea and Sulu Sea had improved since the agency’s establishment in 2005.
He said prior to their existence, piracy was a cause for concern with 38 cases reported in 2004. Piracy in the Straits of Malacca dropped significantly in the following year due to MMEA’s concentrated efforts to eradicate robberies at sea. “No robberies at sea were reported between 2009 and 2010 as well as 2012 to 2013.
Two incidents were each reported in 2011 and 2014. “This is an excellent record, given that the Straits of Malacca sees vessel traffic of over 77,000 ships a year,” he said. When asked if criminals have shifted their sights to the South China Sea due to the tight surveillance on the Straits of Malacca, Ahmad Puzi said the MMEA and its 5,000 personnel monitored all territorial waters, keeping an eye on suspicious vessels and activities at sea at all times.
He said the agency had carried out 175,000 inspections over 10 years. Forty individuals were arrested during that time and sentenced 10 years imprisonment and caning for robbery. The agency has also teamed up with the Royal Malaysia Police, Royal Malaysian Navy, Royal Malaysian Customs and the Marine Department of Malaysia in its bid to beef up operations. — Bernama