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Search for 10 US crewmen will continue in the morning

 | August 21, 2017

Malaysia confirms the collision with merchant vessel occurred within Malaysian waters.

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PUTRAJAYA: The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) is heading the search and rescue (SAR) operation to look for 10 unaccounted crew members of a United States guided-missile destroyer following its collision with a merchant vessel in the waters of Ramunia Bay, near Singapore, early today.

MMEA director-general Admiral Zulkifli Abu Bakar said the operation, covering a 100 square nautical mile area, began at 8.45am today involving eight marine assets, a Malaysian aerial asset and another from the USS John S McCain destroyer.

He said the incident occurred at about 5.40am, and USS John S McCain alerted the Royal Malaysian Navy’s (RMN) KD Handalan, before the naval ship informed the MMEA Johor Bahru operations centre of the matter at 8am.

He said other agencies involved in the SAR operation were the RMN, marine police, and Marine Department of Malaysia.

“The operation is divided into four sectors, with MMEA looking in sector A and C, while sector B will be done by RMN and sector D by the marine police,” he told a press conference here.

Among the MMEA assets deployed for the operation were the KM Mulia vessel, and Petir 12 and Penggalang 39 boats from the Southern Maritime Region, he said.

USS John McCain, and the Liberian-flagged merchant vessel, Alnic MC, reportedly collided in the Singapore Strait, causing five crew members to be injured, while another 10 went missing.

Zulkifli said the destroyer suffered damage to its port side, and proceeded to Singapore’s Changi Navy Base to assess the damage.

“The Alnic MC was also led to the same base for further assessments. No oil spill was reported at the scene,” he said.

On weather in the area, he said the waves were as high as 0.5 to 1.5 metres, considered quite challenging for individuals at sea without a safety jacket.

Asked on the statement by the Singapore Maritime and Port Authority that the incident occurred in the waters of the country, and Malaysia was not involved in the SAR, Zulkifli denied it and said the incident occurred within Malaysian waters.

“The area of the incident is 4.5 nautical miles off of Ramunia Bay, and close to the Abu Bakar Maritime Base in Batuan Tengah (Middle Rocks),” he said.

However, Zulkifli said MMEA would contact Singapore to ensure there was no clash between the assets in the search area, as the country was running its own SAR mission.

He added that Singapore had deployed marine assets such as RSS Gallant and RSS Resilience from the Singapore Navy and Basking Shark from the Singapore Police Coast Guard, while Indonesia had also joined the SAR mission by sending in KRI Parang and KRI Cucuk from its navy.

“At the moment, we do not have to question in which country’s waters the incident occurred in because what is important is to locate the 10 missing crew members,” he said.

Asked whether the incident was caused by the heavy sea traffic in the region, he said it was possible, as no less than 80,000 vessels used the route each year.

Meanwhile, Southern Region MMEA director, First Admiral Adon Shalan, in a statement said the SAR operation was adjourned at 7.30pm and would resume at 7am tomorrow.


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