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Southern Region News

July 12, 2006 10:10 AM

Armed Escort Ships In Melaka Strait Closely Monitored

JOHOR BAHARU, July 12 (Bernama) -- The Southern Region marine police have not detected any armed escort ships encroaching Malaysian waters while providing protection for merchant ships in the Melaka Strait.

Its chief ACP Isa Munir said the armed escort service, based in Singapore and manned by ex-elite members of the armed forces, was being closely monitored.

"Maybe now they have stationed their security personnel on the ships and no longer on escort ships," he told Bernama, here Wednesday.

The armed escort vessels in the narrow strait are unwelcomed by the littoral states - Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore - on grounds that their presence undermines national sovereignty and laws. They are supposed to provide protection from pirate attacks.

Meanwhile, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) Piracy Reporting Center's regional director Noel Choong said the organisation did not recognise the armed escort vessel service in the Melaka Strait that charged between US$50,000 and US$100,000 for each assignment.

"We support the Malaysian government's view that the responsibility to secure the strait lies with littoral states and this is endorsed by the United Nations," he told Bernama.

If there was any incident involving the armed escort ships in the 800km long strait, Noel said, the shipping firm that solicited the service was fully responsible.

On whether the escort service was still on after the littoral states denounced its presence, he said it was but the number of vessels involved was small.

However, IMB had no knowledge of the exact number.

More than 50,000 merchant ships ply the Melaka Strait annually.



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