Wednesday, December 8

Possibble sand smuggled from Johor to Singapore — Maritime agency

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JOHOR BAHARU: In all probability, sand is being smuggled from Johor to Singapore. This is based on intelligence information gathered by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA).

Nevertheless, the agency was having difficulty proving it, said MMEA (southern region) maritime enforcement chief First Admiral Zulkifli Abu Bakar.

“The investigation to verify the authenticity of the (intelligence) report is ongoing, but from our initial probe, there is a possibility it (sand smuggling) is really happening,” he told Bernama in a recent interview.

He said MMEA members involved in patrolling the waters off Johor had stumbled on several boats laden with excavated sand, complete with documents and permits for transportation of sand.

However, he disclosed, the MMEA would cease its monitoring efforts when the vessels entered Singapore waters enroute to their final destination.

Zulkifli said, most of the boats and vessels in Johor, especially in Sungai Johor, were given permit to transport sand for development projects in Danga Bay, Tanjung Bin and Permas Jaya.

However, to reach Danga Bay, for example, Zulkifli said they had to go through Singapore waters to reach the destination. This is because the waters in Tebrau Straits are too shallow or blocked by the Johor Causeway, he said.

When the vessels and boats are in Singapore waters, we cannot do anything (in terms of monitoring and enforcement). We do not know whether they would divert or unload the sand elsewhere.”

Zulkifli said MMEA intelligence information also revealed that the vessels and boats laden with sand from Johor had frequented two areas in Singapore, namely Punggol and Tuas.

According to a source, Punggol is noted as a sand storage area while Tuas sees rampant land reclamation.

“Although we were informed that the vessels and boats were heading to Punggol and Tuas, we do not have proof that they have been unloading the sand at the two places,” said Zulkifli. — Bernama