KUANTAN: Nearly two weeks after the hijacking of the oil tanker MT Orkim Harmony, the vessel was “seized” again, this time in a staged demonstration by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA).
In a forced boarding demonstration, the MMEA’s Special Task and Rescue Team personnel fast-roped from a helicopter onto the vessel and proceeded to make their way towards the bridge.
The five-man team then apprehended two “pirates”, played by crew members of the MT Orkim Harmony, within minutes.
MMEA senior principal assistant director Captain Maritime Robert Teh Geok Chuan said the team had been deployed to conduct random inspections of Malaysian-registered vessels following the hijacking incident.
“This measure will allow the MMEA to conduct enforcement on board vessels quickly, especially those that are on hot routes and require immediate assistance,” Capt Teh told reporters on board MT Orkim Harmony off the coast of Kuantan yesterday.
“This is also to increase the security level of ships in our waters so that hijackings can be intercepted earlier and effectively.”
He said the task force was an elite team established in 2005 to handle special operations on hijacked vessels and on ships in high-risk situations.
“Its officers and personnel have received special training from the elite teams of the Malaysian Armed Forces, the United States Coast Guard and the Japan Coast Guard. They have so far performed 15 forced boarding using the fast-roping technique,” he said.
Capt Teh added that the MMEA had arrested and charged 40 hijackers to date, with all of them sentenced to jail and caning.
On the investigation into the MT Orkim Harmony hijacking, Capt Teh said it was ongoing while the extradition of the eight hijackers was still being discussed with Vietnam.
He said the hijackers would most likely be charged in Johor Baru as the crime was committed off the coast of the state.
Capt Teh also said the 22 crew members had already returned home.
The crew on board the vessel during the demonstration was a replacement.