Thursday, September 19

‘MMEA takes all pirate attacks seriously’

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MONITORING: MMEA enforcement personnel keeping watch aboard their patrol vessel. — Photo by Jeremy Lanson

KUCHING: Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) will not take any pirate attack lightly even though only two cases were recorded thus far this year in Sarawak.

Describing pirate attacks similar to house breaking, its state operation director Captain (Maritime) Abdul Razak Lebai Omar said that pirate attack here had not reached an alarming level.

“We, however, view all attacks seriously. We have taken appropriate measures to ensure that Sarawak waters are free of the menace,” he told reporters on board KM Cekal, after departing the jetty at MMEA complex in Muara Tebas near here on Wednesday.

Among the measures, Abdul Razak said, was engaging an aircraft (Bombardier 415) to monitor the activities at sea.

Without disclosing any details, he said the pirates involved in the two cases could be locals.

Two pirate attacks were reported within Miri waters last month. The first one, which took place about 22km off
Tanjong Lobang, six pirates robbed 13 crew members of a Petronas-chartered vessel of cash and valuable worth about RM82,000.

The crew members were unharmed in the incident which happened about 8pm on July 8. The pirates were said to be wearing face masks, armed with machetes and used speedboats.

On July 17, a private boat was reportedly attacked by three machete-wielding pirates. The incident took place west of Lutong, about 10km from the coast. The boat was on its way back to shore after sending food supply to an offshore barge.

On another matter, Abdul Razak said the state MMEA had made 24 arrests so far this year, 20 of which involved encroachment by foreign fishing boats mainly from Thailand and Vietnam.

“Most of the fishing boats were found between 50 and 200 nautical miles from Sarawak waters,” he said.

The other four cases involved attempt by local fishermen to smuggle subsidised diesel with the latest case involving

“The latest case (July 31) involves 50,000 litres,” he said.

Abdul Razak said they had six vessels patrolling the waters of Sarawak everyday to ensure the safety of fishermen and others as well as to reduce the number of possible crimes.

“We are operating on shift 24 hours a day to ensure maximum coverage of areas and we need the public to inform us if they have information of suspicious activities carried out in the sea,” he said.