Migrant-smuggling syndicates playing hide-and-seek with MMEA

KOTA TINGGI: Hiding between illegally anchored vessels is one of the tactics used by migrant-smuggling syndicates to avoid the authorities, says the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA).

Rear Admiral (Maritime) Kamaruszaman Abu Hassan said the syndicates would move back and forth between the sea borders before heading towards their landing shores.

“There were illegally anchored vessels in the eastern Johor waters known as Tompok Utara, Permatang Timur and Beting Ramunia.

“These have also been identified as landing spots for migrant-smuggling syndicates near Pengerang, Sungai Rengit, Tanjung Penyusup and Teluk Ramunia, ” the MMEA deputy director-general (operations) said in a press conference at the MMEA Sedili Maritime Base near here yesterday.

Rear Admiral Kamaruszaman said some of the vessels were anchored between two to six nautical miles from each other, which was a very short distance for them to easily move about.

“The fewer vessels anchored in those waters, the easier it is for us to identify any suspicious activities around the area.

“This is one of the reasons the MMEA conducted a 10-day Ops Jangkar Haram from March 24 where 105 vessels have been detected anchoring in the area, ” he said.

Rear Admiral Kamaruszaman said 71 vessels had been ordered to move out while 18 had been detained.

“The 18 detained vessels are seized under Section 49B(1) of the Merchant Shipping Ordinance 1952 for anchoring without permission which carries a fine not more than RM100,000 or imprisonment not more than two years or both.

“Only nine vessels had the permits to anchor in the area while the remaining seven are still awaiting response from the Marine Department, ” he said.

Rear Admiral Kamaruszaman said the operation involved 175 personnel, five MMEA vessels, four boats, two helicopters and two teams from the MMEA Special Task and Rescue Force.

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