JOHOR BAHRU: The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) ordered five merchant ships from various countries to leave as they were found to have anchored without permission in Malaysian waters near Kota Tinggi.
Johor Maritime director Nurul Hizam Zakaria said the ships, registered in Dominica, Indonesia, Palau, Panama and Liberia, were evicted during an operation yesterday.
“An MMEA patrol vessel was assigned to expel them for not possessing valid permission to anchor in Malaysian waters,” he said in a statement.
He said the waters of Tompok Utara had become a focus area for merchant ships to anchor since the movement control order (MCO) was enforced in March as most countries had taken measures to restrict movement in and out of major ports.
As a result, he said merchant ships took the opportunity to anchor around Malaysian waters illegally.
Hizam said in this month alone, they had evicted 23 merchant ships from Tompok Utara, while detaining 17 others in the waters of eastern Johor so far this year.
He reminded operators that the waters of Permatang Timur (Eastern Bank), Beting Ramunia (Ramunia Shoal) and Tompok Utara (North Patch) were within the Malaysian maritime zone and are not international waters, although they are at a distance of more than 12 nautical miles from the nearest land.
“All shipping activities in these areas must have permission from the Malaysian authorities,” he added.
Hizam said those with information about maritime crimes in Johor waters, can contact the 24-hour state MMEA operations centre hotline at 07-2199404.