Thursday, November 12, 2009

Local Patience Thinning for Johor Anchored Ships

Vessels Polluting Local Waters
Shipping News Feature

MALAYSIA – Hundreds of ships that have been anchored in the Johor strait due to the economic downturn are on the point of wearing out their welcome, according to local fishermen and port officials.

These have also criticised the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) for not enforcing rules more harshly that prevent vessels from conducting illegal oil transfers or cleaning of tanks.

Speaking to the AFP news agency Damon Nori Masood, the Johor Port Authority assistant general manager, said that: “These vessels are not supposed to anchor there. This activity is considered illegal.

“All of these ships are off port limits, and some are just one metre away from the boundary line, making us unable to take action.”

Many of the ships have been anchored for as much as a year. The straits are close enough to Singapore for the vessels to be quickly available once tonnages rise once again, but far enough to avoid port charges and close scrutiny of what they are doing.

One local fisherman, Azlan Mohamad, told AFP that: “The ships sit in our fishing area and make our fishing difficult. The ships also dump sludge at night to avoid detection.

“The anchored vessels have affected the income of some 3,000 fishermen. Our daily catch has fallen and the oil spills have made our lives more difficult as they damage our nets.”

However, the MMEA appears to have had enough of such allegations and is moving to enforce laws preventing illegal dumping and cleaning of oil tanks. Last week the agency detained five foreign tankers for allegedly entering Malaysian waters without permission and conducting illegal cleaning and bunkering operations.

The agency is now warning that it has the right to prosecute owners, masters and agents of any rogue behaviour from their vessels. Punishment can include two years in jail and a fine.

(pic: © MMEA)