MMEA: Over 100 vessels detained for illegal anchoring in Johor waters since January this year

JOHOR BARU: The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) had detained over a hundred vessels in eastern Johor waters for illegal anchoring under Ops Jangkar Haram that has been carried out since early this year.

Johor MMEA director First Admiral Nurul Hizam Zakaria said the agency launched the Ops Jangkar Haram on March 24 to curb illegal anchoring among trading vessels especially around Tompok Utara.

“The area is a known hotspot for such illegal activity as it has a depth of 60m, which is suitable for ships to anchor.

“Eastern Johor waters is part of a busy trade route in the world as it connects the east and west with an average of 80,000 vessels going through the route yearly,” he said here on Sunday (Sept 26).

Nurul Hizam added that the latest case occurred on Friday (Sept 24) when MMEA assets spotted and detained two vessels for carrying out illegal oil transfer and anchoring without permission in eastern Johor waters.

He said the vessels were detained at around 1.30pm at 22 nautical miles northeast of Tanjung Siang waters.

“One of the vessels, a Mongolian registered ship, which has eight Indonesian crewmen between the ages of 23 and 66, had just been fined RM50,000 for illegal anchoring in Malaysian waters on Sept 22.

“The other vessel is registered in Panama where it has 25 crewmen from Indonesia, Ukraine, Georgia and Russia between the ages of 23 and 53, and have valid identification documents,” he added.

Nurul Hizam said since January this year, MMEA had detained 101 vessels for various offences under the Merchant Shipping Ordinance 1952 with 83 of those ships under Ops Jangkar Haram.

He added that the number of cases was the highest to date, surpassing the previous record of 93 cases by Johor MMEA in 2010.

“The amount of fines collected and compounds issued through the Merchant Shipping Ordinance 1952 is at RM2.5mil with RM1.3mil through Ops Jangkar Haram,” he added.

He said that 30 Singapore-registered vessels were detained for such offences, followed by Indonesian vessels (12) and Malaysian vessels (nine).

“The skippers of some of these vessels claimed they were unaware of being in Malaysian waters when they anchored and did not know about our maritime laws, which is a lame excuse,” he added.

Nurul Hizam said vessels that anchored in Malaysian waters without informing the Marine Department was a serious offence as they wanted to avoid paying taxes to the authorities here.

He described the operation as a success and MMEA would continue to work closely with the Marine Department to stamp out illegal anchoring throughout Johor waters.

Nurul Hizam also paid tribute to his men for their high dedication and hard work to safeguard Malaysian waters and its sovereignty in various operations throughout the first nine months of this year, especially during the pandemic.

“Some 360 of my officers and personnel had to be put under quarantine after they came into close contact with detained foreign suspects. Of that number, 120 of them tested positive and we lost two officers to Covid-19 on Aug 16 and Sept 17,” he added.
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