Sandakan maritime agencies to shore up safety measures after fatal boat crash

Region 4 marine police commander Mohamad Pajeri Ali (fourth from right) receiving an MMEA cap from MMEA Sandakan director Zainudin Mohd Zuki following their meeting yesterday.

KOTA KINABALU: Maritime agencies in Sandakan will launch joint operations to prevent accidents such as the boat collision that killed one person and injured several others on Sabah’s east coast earlier this month.

The marine police and the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) will hold the joint operations with personnel from the Sabah Ports and Harbour Department, Region 4 marine police commander Mohamad Pajeri Ali said.

He said the operations would include a crackdown on offences under the Malaysian Shipping Ordinance and Penal Code.

Pajeri said this was among the issues discussed between him and MMEA Sandakan director Zainudin Mohd Zuki yesterday.

On Feb 13, General Operations Force personnel Asman Ongkal went missing after the boat he and his family were on capsized following a collision with a tugboat. There were 37 passengers on the boat when the incident occurred.

The boat was heading to the district jetty from Pulau Kampung Tanjung Aru when it collided with the tugboat that was towing a smaller boat.

Azman went missing after reportedly trying to rescue other passengers. His body was found by fishermen about 1km from the location the next day.

Sandakan police chief Azhar Hamin said the 37 passengers included 28 primary and secondary school students. The rest were adults.

Following the incident, Sandakan MP Vivian Wong urged the authorities to review the standard operating procedures of vessels operating in Sandakan waters.

She said there were many schoolchildren travelling to mainland Sandakan from the islands to attend school every day on boats and ferries, and it was was important to ensure their safety.

Pajeri also said the marine police would be working more closely with the MME to combat cross border crime on the Sabah east coast.

“These cross border crimes involve cases like intrusion by foreign trawlers, smuggling of controlled goods, smuggling and theft of jungle produce and animals, and human and drug trafficking.

“But we informed them that the marine police’s main focus at the moment is more towards cases linked to kidnap for ransom groups and fish bombing,” he said.

He also said the MMEA had agreed to allow boats from the Sandakan marine police to access any of their jetties in the district under the agreement struck between both agencies.