Warnings effective in warding off foreign fishing vessels

Sabah MMEA is set to receive two NGPC this year, similar to the KM Sri Aman pictured here, which set sail from the Tun Abang Salahuddin Maritime Complex in Muara Tebas, Kuching, late last year. — ZULAZHAR SHEBLEE/The Star

KOTA KINABALU: The issuance of yellow cards to Vietnamese fishing vessels last September helped reduce invasion into Malaysian waters.

Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) director general Datuk Seri Zulkifli Abu Bakar said the cards were issued by the European Union (EU) after complaints from various countries including Malaysia about the encroachment.

He said the EU responded by issuing a warning to the country where it had to rectify the situation within six months.

He said if Vietnam continued to allow their vessels to encroach into Malaysian waters, EU would issue a red card to them.

“A ban on imports of marine products from Vietnam will be imposed then,” he said during a press conference at the Sabah MMEA headquarters here.

Zulkifli said the MMEA recorded 70 cases of invasion involving Vietnamese fishing boats last year, and 59 cases involving Malaysian boats operated by Vietnamese crews.

He said confiscated Vietnamese boats would be burnt down and sunk to create artificial reefs.

Zulkifli added that they engaged the Fisheries Department to monitor activities of local fishermen via the Automatic Identification System (AIS). Fishing boat operators agreed not to transfer their catch to foreign boats in international waters or use pair trawling nets, and not switch off their AIS more than 20% of the time in a year.

“Any breach of this agreement will result in suspension of their fishing licences,” he added.

Speaking of the agency’s future plans in Sabah, Zulkifli said MMEA would receive two New Generation Patrol Craft (NGPC) this year, which would uplift the agency’s capacity and capability in law enforcement. The 44-metre-long vessels, costing RM60mil each are equipped with 30mm guns and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

“One of them, KM Kota Belud, is completed and now being tested and will be delivered to us soon while KM Kota Kinabalu is expected to be delivered before year end.”

He said KM Kota Belud would be based in Sandakan and KM Kota Kinabalu in Kota Kinabalu.

Zulkifli said they ordered 30 new 12-metre rigid hull inflatable boats to replace its existing ones that have been in service for 13 years.

“The Sabah and Labuan MMEA is expected to receive a new Offshore Patrol Vessel costing RM247mil as well,” he said, adding that the vessel was one of three being ordered for the agency.

Zulkifli said the MMEA Act was amended to allow for it to form a reserve unit, a cadet unit, and its own lock-ups.

He also disclosed that at 244,140 square kilometres, Sabah waters was MMEA’s biggest maritime area divided into five districts.

The state has the longest coastline of 1,359 km. Sabah and Labuan MMEA, he said, is manned by 1,065 personnel, 95% of whom were uniformed personnel.

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