NINE NAVY MEN SAFE AND SOUND

THE sailors, who went miss­ing in an op­er­a­tion against for­eign fish­ing ves­sels on Satur­day, were spot­ted in their boat by an RMAF air­craft last night. The navy chief, in de­scrib­ing their con­di­tion, says the nine ‘look good from the air’.

New Straits Times - - Front Page - T.N. ALAGESH AND AH­MAD FAIRUZ OTH­MAN KUAN­TAN news@nst.com.my Ad­di­tional re­port­ing by Hariz Mohd

AF­TER al­most 48 hours adrift at sea, nine Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) sailors who went miss­ing fol­low­ing an op­er­a­tion against il­le­gal for­eign fish­er­men in Tan­jung Sedili wa­ters, Johor, were found safe and sound last night.

The boat they were in was spot­ted 90 nau­ti­cal miles, off Kuan­tan, by a Royal Malaysian Air Force Beechcraft air­craft tasked with look­ing for the sailors fol­low­ing a re­port from a com­mer­cial ves­sel that it had spot­ted a boat in the area.

News of the find first came from RMN chief Ad­mi­ral Tan Sri Ah­mad Ka­marulza­man Ah­mad Badarud­din, who tweeted that the boat had been spot­ted by the Beechcraft and that all nine sailors “looked good from the air”.

The sailors com­prised an of­fi­cer and eight rank-and-file per­son­nel. They were launched in the boat from RMN’s first fas­tat­tack craft (mis­sile) KD Per­dana to board and in­ves­ti­gate for­eign fish­ing boats con­duct­ing il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties in Malaysian wa­ters.

“The KD Per­dana’s boat lo­cated by RMAF Beechcraft 90nm east of Kuan­tan fol­low­ing ear­lier sight­ing by a mer­chant ship. TQ to all,” was Ka­marulza­man’s first tweet.

This was fol­lowed by: “They (boat crew) look good from the air. Thank you all for as­sist­ing in the Search and Res­cue (SAR). Great team ef­fort!”

Com­mu­ni­ca­tions to the sailors were lost with the boat crew at 8.13pm on Satur­day, not too long af­ter they were di­rected to check on Viet­namese boats at a lo­ca­tion 29 nau­ti­cal miles off Tan­jung Sedili, near Kota Tinggi.

Led by Lieu­tenant Mohd Hidir Yu­sof, the team com­prised lead­ing rates Mohd Zaidi Rahim, Mo­hamad Rabidzi Rodzian, Mohd Nu­rul Shahi­ran Salwi, Mohd Ak­mal­nizam Am­dan and Suhaimi Sham­sudin, and able sea­men Faisal Iskan­dar Alias, Mohd Fitri Ab Melek and Zul­husni Sher­hut­din.

Tan­jung Sedili District 7 Malaysian Mar­itime En­force­ment Agency chief Cap­tain Am­ran Daud said the crew and boat would likely be taken to the Ter­ri­tory 1 naval base in Tan­jung Gelang, Kuan­tan.

A state­ment from RMN had ear­lier said com­mu­ni­ca­tions were lost dur­ing fair weather and sea con­di­tions.

“Be­fore the boat went miss­ing, the board­ing team and KD Per­dana were in op­er­a­tion to chase away the for­eign ves­sels. The last lo­ca­tion of the boat, be­fore com­mu­ni­ca­tions was lost, was about 29 nau­ti­cal miles off Tan­jung Sedili Be­sar. The weather was fine, with waves at be­tween 1m and 1.5m in height, while winds were re­ported to be be­tween 20kph and 30kph,” said the state­ment.

It is learnt that KD Per­dana had re­ported see­ing 10 Viet­namese boats in Tan­jung Sedili wa­ters at 8.09pm on Satur­day and pur­sued them. Five of those for­eign boats were di­rected to go to­wards the Ex­clu­sive Eco­nomic Zone, while the other five for­eign boats headed north.

KD Per­dana was later able to trace five of the boats. The board­ing team was di­rected to con­duct a search on the boats at a lo­ca­tion two nau­ti­cal miles west, while KD Per­dana chased the other for­eign fish­ing boats.

KD Per­dana lost con­tact with the board­ing team boat at 8.13pm and a search was ini­tially con­ducted at four sec­tors sur­round­ing the area.

Later on, a for­eign fish­ing boat in­formed RMN that they saw a boat “float­ing” about 20 nau­ti­cal miles from the search area.

How­ever, a team despatched to that spot did not find any­thing. KD Per­dana at­tempted to re-es­tab­lish con­tact with the miss­ing board­ing team, but to no avail.

It is learnt KD Per­dana had also searched in wa­ters off Pu­lau Pe­mang­gil and Pu­lau Sibu, and cov­ered a 10 nau­ti­cal mile area south of Pu­lau Aur. Fol­low­ing the fail­ure of KD Per­dana to lo­cate the sailors, RMN launched a searc­hand-res­cue op­er­a­tion with the as­sis­tance of MMEA.

Tan­jung Sedili Area Fish­er­men As­so­ci­a­tion mem­bers, upon hear­ing about the miss­ing sailors, joined in the search aboard their boats.

Navy as­sets used in the op­er­a­tion in­cluded KD Per­dana, KD Perkasa, KD Pen­dekar, KD Han­dalan, KD Tereng­ganu, KD Ke­lan­tan, a “Pen­galang 39” boat, a “Ki­lat 16” boat, a Su­per Lynx he­li­copter and a Fen­nec he­li­copter, while a SAR op­er­a­tions room was opened at the naval base in Tan­jung Gelang.

FILE PIC

A rigid hull in­flat­able boat sim­i­lar to the one that went miss­ing in Tan­jung Sedili wa­ters off Johor.

A screengrab of RMN chief Ad­mi­ral Tan Sri Ah­mad Ka­marulza­man Ah­mad Badarud­din’s tweet of the dis­cov­ery of the miss­ing boat and sailors.

RMN chief Ad­mi­ral Tan Sri Ah­mad Ka­marulza­man Ah­mad Badarud­din

MMEA Cap­tain Am­ran Daud

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