KOTA KINABALU: Operation Mengalum, launched last month following the boat capsize tragedy involving tourists from China, will be expanded state-wide.
Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) Sabah and Labuan Regional director, Maritime First Admiral Zubil Mat Som said the operation to enforce tourist boat and passenger safety regulations, was carried out in Semporna two days ago.
He said the operation, launched by MMEA on Feb 28 following the catamaran capsize tragedy, would soon be conducted for boats to Pulau Mantani, Kota Belud, which received up to 800 visitors per day.
“We have inspected 249 boats involving 1,845 passengers (since Feb 28). We detained 22 boats before the operation was highlighted by the media but only one boat was nabbed after that.
“This means most boat operators are heeding the regulations. We hope this will continue. We look at enforcement also as a way of educating the boat operators to be more responsible towards their passengers and crew,” he told reporters, here, Thursday.
Meanwhile, Zubil advised boat operators to immediately contact the MMEA when their boat encountered any problem at sea to enable a search and rescue (SAR) operation to be launched as quickly as possible.
He said boat operators should not keep quiet merely because they had flouted the rules and were afraid of being penalised but should instead, prioritise passenger and crew safety.
“We have trained SAR members who have undergone training in France. We also have a helicopter which can supply safety rafts (to boats experiencing problems at sea),” he said.
On the SAR operation to look for five more victims of the catamaran which sank in January, comprising four China nationals and a local, Zubil said it was still on with a reduction of assets and the search focused on the waters between Pulau Mengalum and Kota Kinabalu.
He said the SAR operation would continue until a directive was given stating otherwise although the Brunei authorities had stopped the search in their waters.
“The SAR operation by MMEA, as far as I know, is the longest in Malaysian history. Chances of finding the victims are slim,” he said.