The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) had detained more than 100 vessels in eastern Johor waters due to various reasons, including illegal anchoring. They carried out a mission, Ops Jangkar Haram, since early 2021 to detain foreign ships.
Nurul Hizam Zakaria, Johor MMEA director First Admiral, has reportedly said that the agency has launched Ops Jangkar Haram on 24 March to prevent illegal anchoring of trading vessels, specifically at Tompok Utara.
The area is a hotspot for illegal activities as it has a depth of 60m and hence, is suitable for vessels to anchor. Eastern Johor waters make a busy trade route as it connects the east to the west and an average of 80,000 vessels use it every year.
Nurul Hizam also added that the most recent case occurred on 24 September (Friday). MMEA assets observed and detained two vessels for conducting illegal oil transfers. The vessels had also anchored in eastern Johor waters without taking permission.
He said that around 1.30 pm, the two vessels had been detained in the northeast of Tanjung Siang waters at 22 nautical miles.
One of the two vessels was a Mongolian-registered sea vessel with eight crew members from Indonesia aged between 23 and 66 years. It has been fined RM50,000 owing to illegal anchoring in the Malaysian waters.
The other is registered in Panama. It had 25 crewmen from Ukraine, Georgia, Indonesia, and Russia between the ages of 23 and 53 years. They also have valid identification proofs.
Nurul Hizam has also said that from January 2021, the MMEA has detained 100+ vessels due to various kinds of violations per the Merchant Shipping Ordinance of 1952. Of those 101 vessels, 83 fall under the Ops Jangkar Haram. He also said that the number of cases was the highest to date, surpassing the earlier record of 93 cases captured by the Johor MMEA recorded in 2010.
Nurul Hizam has also said that 30 Singapore-registered vessels had been detained for offenses of the same kind, followed by 12 Indonesian and nine Malaysian vessels.
Some of the skippers of these vessels have claimed to be unaware of entering Malaysian waters when anchoring. They claimed to not know maritime laws, which according to Hizam is a pretty lame excuse. Vessels anchoring in Malaysian waters without letting the Marine Department know commit a grave offense because it means that they want to avoid paying mandatory taxes to the authorities.
The operation so far has been a success, and MMEA will continue collaborating with the Marine Department to put an end to all illegal anchoring in Johor waters.
Nurul Hizam paid tribute to his team for the hard work and dedication to protect Malaysian waters and its sovereignty via various high-risk operations throughout these nine months from the start of 2021, especially during the ongoing pandemic.
About 360 officers and personnel in Nurul Hizam’s team had to quarantine when they came in close proximity with the detained suspects. Of those 360, 120 had tested positive for Covid-19, and two officers have passed away on 16 August and 17 September.