KUCHING: Passengers and crew onboard a Malaysian fishing vessel, which was detained by Indonesian authorities on Wednesday, have been released and are expected to arrive at Santubong Boat Club here today.
The 11 Malaysian passengers and three crew – two Malaysians and an Indonesian – were caught about 53 nautical miles north of Tanjung Datu for allegedly encroaching into the Indonesian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
According to Indonesian media reports, the vessel, named NEMO, was towed to the Indonesian National Army (TNI) navy base at Riau Island where it remained until it and those onboard were released.
Meanwhile, Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) Sarawak director Maritime Captain Robert Teh Geok Chuan in a statement yesterday said the vessel was released following successful talks between the agency and TNI.
Earlier yesterday, several fishing boat operators held a press conference at the Bintawa fishing pier here, during which they claimed that it was ‘common’ for Malaysian fishing vessels to be wrongfully detained in the South China Sea.
The owner of NEMO, who was also present, claimed that another fishing vessel belonging to him was seized by Indonesian authorities two years ago.
The vessel, he said, had yet to be released despite both parties reaching an agreement to settle an undisclosed fine.
Also present at the press conference was former Stampin MP Julian Tan, who aired another issue faced by local fishermen.
According to him, the fishing community here has for many years complained of encroachment into Malaysian waters by Vietnamese fishing boats.
“This is a matter that needs to be looked at seriously. The foreign fishermen have directly affected the income of our local fishermen, as the fishing harvest is reduced.
“Under a new government administration, we hope that whatever issues or challenges faced by our maritime agencies can be resolved,” he said