09 Juni 2011
CL-415 amphibian plane of the MMEA (photo : Militaryphotos)
PUTRAJAYA, (Bernama) -- The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), which celebrated six years of its existence last February, will soon be the sole law-enforcement agency in Malaysia's waters.
Before MMEA was established, there were eight maritime agencies that enforced more than 100 federal laws, regulations and agreements. These were the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN), Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF), Marine Police, Royal Malaysian Customs Department, Marine Department, Department of Fisheries, Department of Environment (DOE) and Immigration Department.
The MMEA was established on Feb 15, 2005 to resolve the overlap in maritime functions, jurisdictions and operations of these agencies. With the formation of MMEA, enforcement is now better coordinated than earlier.
The agency, however, needs to overcome several shortcomings to effectively police over 614,000 square km of the country's waters.
Among them are the issues of inadequate personnel, equipment and airbases. At present the MMEA operates only one airbase in Subang.
In a recent interview, MMEA Director-General, Admiral Datuk Mohd Amdan Kurish, said the agency has implemented several measures to enable its efficient functioning.
Mohd Amdan said the MMEA has plans to procure more patrol ships, aircraft and other assets from the government, to increase its efficiency.
These assets include a new airbase for the maritime enforcement agency's aircraft to operate from.
"A single airbase in Subang is definitely not adequate ...we should have one here (in the peninsula) and another base in the east region (for Sabah and Sarawak)."
"But we are yet to identify the location of the airbase (for Sabah and Sarawak)," he said.
The agency was established after the enactment of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency Act 2004. Its role is to ensure safety, security and sovereignty of the Malaysian Maritime Zone. MMEA is also tasked with protecting life and property in sea waters.
The agency's jurisdiction consists of the Malaysian Maritime Zone, including internal waters, territorial sea, continental shelf and the exclusive economic zone. The air space over the Malaysian Maritime Zone is also the responsibility of the MMEA.
New Ships and Vessels
Patrol crafts of the MMEA (photo : Faizal Omar)
Mohd Amdan added that the agency's assets are currently inadequate and outdated. He said procurement of additional equipment from the government was crucial as it would enable the agency to perform smoothly, tasks such as patrolling waters and conducting rescue operations. So far, the MMEA operates 130 boats and vessels, and eight helicopters. Most of these assets belonged earlier to the Royal Malaysia Navy (RMN), and some of them are in a run-down condition.
MMEA's ships are named Marlin, Sipadan, Langkawi, Malawali, Gagah, Penggalang, Peninjau, Pelindung, Penyelamat and Kilat.
"Our assets (ships) have surpassed their age limit... the ships we got from the Royal Malaysia Navy are 38-40 years old... it is time for us to get new ships," he said.
Mohd Amdan said the vessels need to be replaced as they are inefficient and have high-maintenance costs.
For administrative purposes, the MMEA is divided into five regions namely the Northern Region, Southern Region, Eastern Region, and Sarawak and Sabah.
The Northern Region includes Perlis, Kedah, Penang and Perak. Its head office is in Penang. The Southern Region includes Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Melaka and Johor, with a head office in Johor Baharu.
The Eastern Region covers Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan, with a head office at Kuantan. The MMEA's head office for Sarawak is in Kuching while the head office for Sabah and Labuan is at Kota Kinabalu.
MMEA also has district offices and bases at locations around the coastal waters of Malaysia.
Stamping Out Smuggling
Mohd Amdan said the MMEA is currently focusing its efforts on eradicating smuggling of contraband such as drugs and firearms.
One of the crimes MMEA deals with is the rampant smuggling of consumer goods like cooking-oil and diesel in the country's northern region. This happens because the goods are cheaper here compared to neighbouring nations.
Among the biggest challenges faced by the enforcement agency is human trafficking, which requires the MMEA to conduct regular patrols and station surveillance units.