A TUGBOAT was chugging slowly along the coast when the roar of a powerful speedboat engine broke the stillness of the mid morning.
In a panicked frenzy, the tugboat’s captain and crew tri-ed to speed up their vessel, but like the tortoise pitted against the hare, the slower boat was soon overtaken by the speedboat.
However, the quick-thinking captain managed to make a di-stress call to the tugboat ow-ner before the pirates, heavily armed with machine guns, climbed onboard and took them “hostage”.
This dramatic hijack in pro-gress off Penang island’s east coast was like a real life dra-ma, if not a scene from a mo-vie.
But it was only a demonstration by the marine police during the opening of its new RM67.5mil northern base at Batu Uban by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on Friday.
With sound effects and a running commentary broadcast over the speaker, the drama continued with the arrival of a marine police team in a patrol boat to the scene.
Negotiations between the two parties came to a head. The pi-rates let loose their guns and the police returned fire.
Then, splash! One of the ho-stages jumped into the sea.
A helicopter came to his rescue, letting down a commando who secured him to a rope be-fore the victim was winched to safety into the aircraft.
Meanwhile, the fiery ex-change between the police and pirates continued with one of the baddies taken down by a sharpshooter perched on a second helicopter.
Amid the fire and smoke, ano-ther team of commandos in two police assault boats boarded the hijacked vessel and took the pi-rates by surprise.
The bad guys were quickly subdued and the hostages were all saved.
Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Mohd Bakri Omar said that responding to robberies at sea was part of the duties of the marine police.
He said that between 1996 and 2005, the northern region ma-rine police handled 22 cases of robbery at sea and arrested 68 suspects. There were also three fatal cases, five cases of arms sei-zure and 25 cases of seizure of sharp weapons.