The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) has said that it will work closely with the Malaysian Marine Department (MMD) and the National Heritage Department (NHD) to strengthen laws on shipwreck theft in the national territorial waters, according to MMEA deputy director-general for operations, Maritime Vice Admiral Datuk Zulkifili Abu Bakar. He said that the three agencies would set up a joint-committee from January 2017.
Speaking at a press conference after attending the UN Convention On The Law Of The Sea seminar at the Sultan Ahmad Shah Maritime Academy, Zulkifili said that the committee would discuss expanding the protected zones, since the existing National Heritage Act only allowed actions to be taken if theft activities had taken place within a 12-mile radius of the national territorial waters.
“We’re proposing that the zones to be expanded up to 200 miles because of the historical value of these shipwrecks and that it should become an attraction to scuba divers,” he said, noting also that the existing law provided that the authorities could only impose fines to the offenders for not having an insurance policy. He said it was time to amend the laws to permit deterrent sentences.
Zulkifili said the absence of hijacked cargo ships in 2016 was a result of close cooperation between MMEA and enforcement agencies of neighbouring countries.