Vietnamese boat rams into MMEA vessel in failed escape bid

KOTA KINABALU: A Vietnamese fishing boat rammed into a Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) vessel in a failed bid to escape when caught off Sabah’s Kudat district.

Kudat Zone Maritime director maritime commander Maurice Grenville Abeyeratne said their team sighted the boat during their exercise dubbed Op Kuda Luat last Saturday (June 11).

He said the boat was spotted about 118 nautical miles northwest of Tanjung Simpang Mengayau – a point also known as the Tip of Borneo – and added that they approached the boat while the crewmen were busy pulling their catch onto the vessel at about noon.

“When our team approached the boat, the skipper acted aggressively by ramming into our vessel KM Arau, causing damage to the fishing boat itself,” he said at a press conference in Kudat on Monday (June 13).

Abeyeratne said that although their vessel sustained some damage, they eventually managed to board the fishing boat.

“We found 41 crew members aged 18 to 58, all of whom were Vietnamese citizens,” Abeyeratne said, adding the vessel did not have the necessary papers to be fishing legally in Malaysian waters.

He said they also found some three tonnes of seafood – mostly squid – on board the boat.

“We believe the boat will release smaller fishing boats to make the catch before returning to the mother ship with their load,” he added.

He said they estimated the seized boat and its catch to be worth approximately RM1.5mil.

“The case will be investigated under Section 15(1)(a) of the Fisheries Act 1985 for fishing in Malaysian waters without a valid permit,” Abeyeratne said, adding the boat and its crew have been brought to the Kudat MMEA jetty for further investigations.

He said the MMEA will step up efforts to curb such activities as well as cross-border crimes being committed at the country’s boundaries.

He added the public may contact the Kudat MMEA operations room at 088- 611858 or the 24-hour Malaysia Emergency Response Services (MERS) 999 to report any suspicious activity at sea.