Malaysia targets illegally anchored ships

Image: Malaysian Maritime Authority.

Over 30 vessels detained in first few days of Malaysia’s “Operation Jangkar Haram”.

Authorities in Malaysia have launched a clampdown on illegally anchored vessels in the eastern waters of Johor. The area is popular with master’s awaiting orders, but vessels are required to obtain permission before dropping anchor or initiating ship-to-ship transfers.

The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) says vessels can be detained for not obtaining “the relevant permission” to anchor and have so far used the regulation to detain 31 ships for illegal anchoring and transfers without approval.

Malaysian law recognises a 12nm limit to her territorial waters, but the Spica Services Group says “in the waters of Southern Johore, often inaccurately referred to as Singapore outside port limits (OPL) East, these territorial limits are as much as 60 nautical miles offshore.”

176 ships have been charged under section 491B of the Malaysian Merchant Shipping Ordinance 1952 since 2017, with fines totalling $2.8m being levied.

There is a long history of shipping being fined in the area and it is not always straightforward for masters to know which jurisdiction their vessel is in, as the waters of Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia all meet in the Singapore Strait.

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