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Sunday, January 10, 2016

Semporna ferry and barge puzzle

Poser over the collision incident between a Semporna-bound ferry and a barge which had mysterious gone missing. Did the ferry violated the curfew order and what was the barge doing in Semporna waters during this curfew period ... Why the authorities don't have a clue or knowledge about it.

As reported in the Daily Express - 9 January 2016 below:- Why ferry without radar allowed?

SEMPORNA: Acting Semporna Police Chief ASP Kamaluddin Othman said the ferry that collided into a barge, here, on Wednesday night had not violated the dusk-to-dawn sea curfew order.

He said the ferry had already entered the country's waters before 6pm and that the incident took place within three nautical miles from shore. The ferry was expected to arrive at the Semporna Jetty at about 8pm.

"The passenger ferry, however, had to slow down as it entered Semporna waters because of the darkness due to the weather," he said, adding this was also why the ferry was only expected to arrive at the jetty at about 8pm prior to the collision.

A total of 156 people and nine crew on board the ferry, heading towards Semporna from Tawi-Tawi in the Philippines, were rescued when the ferry nearly capsized after colliding with the vessel off Semporna waters at 8.30pm.

There were no casualties as some jumped into the sea while others waited until help arrived.

The ferry owned by a local resident and carrying 49 Malaysians and Filipinos making up the rest, had departed from Bonggao, Tawi-Tawi in the Philippines at about 2.30pm for Semporna.

The curfew order which begins at 7pm is now in its 34th phase as announced by the former State Police Commissioner Datuk Jalaluddin Abdul Rahman in December last year.

Speaking on the vessel which has yet to be traced, Kamaluddin said, they will have a meeting with the Marine and Ports Department to obtain updates.

"We want the name of the vessel's owner and the registration status of the vessel concerned," he said, adding that a police report has been lodged and has been referred to the Marine Department for investigations under the Malaysian Ship Ordinance.

On that note, Kamaluddin hoped the people would not speculate or assume that the ferry had violated the curfew order.

"Let us do our investigations," he said.

Earlier, there were questions over how the incident could have happened since Esscom is entrusted with monitoring night-time sea activity along the east coast. Another poser raised was the absence of a radar on the ferry.

"Even the KK-Labuan ferry has a radar because during blinding rain it is hard to know what is in front of you. With Semporna having so many islands the radar requirement should have been imposed by the authorities," said Mohd Kassim, a boatswain at a harbour resort, here.

"Why was the ferry without headlight or radar allowed to enter Semporna at night and what did Esscom do about it?" he asked.

"If it had a radar, the captain should have spotted the barge even if it was pitch dark and there was no light on the barge. All cross-border ferries should be equipped with radar and powerful all-weather searchlights."

According to Senalang Assemblyman Datuk Seri Nasir Sakaran, after the collision with a barge and because it had no light or without a search head light to illuminate its speeding path, it notified the coastguard or the Tawau Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency some 0.25 nautical miles from the Semporna CIQ jetty.

The rescue team then alerted the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) for assistance.

"Why weren't the port or jetty authority or harbour master also equipped with radar to spot such collision danger in time to warn the ferry or barge towboat by radio communication which should be the standard operating procedure for vessels coming in and going out of Semporna," said retired shipping mariner James Kong.

The bigger question is why Esscom and the coastguard had to be notified when they should be the first to be in the know on such nocturnal marine passage in their monitoring systems, which could have been speeding and failing to stop in time prior to slamming into the barge.

"Unless of course the ferry was part of the business network of an east coast politician and its passage to and fro Sabah waters was taken for granted."

According to Semporna District Officer Dr Chacho Bullah, the ferry's owner is a local and estimated losses was put at RM1 million.

"Now the Marine Police could not find the barge, which meant that it was towed to Lahad Datu from Tawau or had been removed. Shouldn't such shipment be disallowed at night when the curfew has not been lifted to prevent intrusion and smuggling of contraband, mangrove timber and fuel to Southern Philippines," said Andrew Gunsalam, a speedboat owner.

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