Sea patrols to be intensified to stop encroachment

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Ismail showing where the 12 foreign vessels were detained under Ops Banteras.

BINTULU: The Malaysia Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) will intensify its patrols of Sarawak waters to stop illegal encroachment by foreign fishing vessels.

Sarawak MMEA enforcement chief, First Admiral (Maritime) Ismail Bujang Pit yesterday disclosed that 12 arrests have been made since ‘Ops Banteras’ was launched on April 11.

To-date, about 12 foreign fishing vessels had been seized with 138 foreigners arrested and to be charged in court.

He informed that three cases were recorded — two in Bintulu and one in Kuching — under ‘Ops Matahari’, an integrated operation with the Marine Department Malaysia launched from April 13 to 15 recently.

Two of the vessels — one each in Bintulu and Kuching — were compounded for violating the Merchant Shipping Ordinance 1952. A third vessel was found to have complied with the rules and regulations.

He also revealed investigation of an illegal ship-to-ship (STS) transfer of 300,000 litres of fuel in Bintulu waters last month, and the transfer of 400,000 litres of fuel in Miri last year.

Both ships failed to obtain valid documents for the transfer of oil from STS so are being investigated under Section 491B (1) (I) of the Merchant Shipping Ordinance 1952.

He advised the operators of vessels and oil tankers to abide by the rules and regulations as illegal STS transfer of goods is detrimental to the country’s economy.

Ismail said some local fishing vessels employ foreigners as crew which is against the law.

“We appeal to our maritime community to give MMEA information on any suspicious activity within Malaysian waters,” he said.

He said those working on oil platforms and local fishermen must inform MMEA if they spot suspicious activity,

especially encroachment by foreign fishermen.

“We cannot cover all platforms because the distance is quite far,” Ismail said, hoping the local maritime community can cooperate with MMEA.

Sarawak’s long coastline of 1,900 km calls for public cooperation since MMEA only has 11 ships and 22 boats — not all of them fully operational.

MMEA will continue working closely with other agencies like the Forest Department to give its fullest cooperation to the state government.

“It will patrol our waters and inspect rivers in Miri with stern action to be taken, especially on Suluks entering the state to do illegal fishing,” he said.

Ismail urged the maritime community, especially fishermen, to bring their Mykad when going out to sea, so they would not be mistaken for foreigners during inspections.