KUALA LUMPUR • A Chinese ship carrying more than 1,000 tonnes of sand illegally mined off Klang has been intercepted by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) in the Malacca Strait, reported the Malay Mail Online yesterday.
The Xinzhou 1, registered in the remote Pacific island of Palau, is believed to have been engaged by a company to transport sand to a location in Kuala Langat, Selangor.
Eight crew members and one skipper, all Chinese nationals, aged between 41 and 60, were arrested, said Selangor MMEA director Abu Zaki Mohammed.
"The ship was spotted as part of our 'Ops Satria Selatan' patrol and was boarded after our personnel found it to be suspicious, at about 4.30pm on Wednesday," he said.
"Upon inspection, we found that the ship had no customs or a domestic shipping licence allowing it to engage in sand-mining activities, and it was detained."
A source told the Malay Mail that the ship had a pump extractor and its activities could have gone unnoticed as the sand was mined underwater.
"Sand is drawn through a pipe and the mixture of sand and seawater is pumped onto the ship's deck, which is fitted to allow the water to drain out, leaving the sand behind," the source said.
"The pumps are powerful and can draw several tonnes of sand and sea water per minute, meaning the ships are able to get in and out of their target zone quickly."
Sand prices range from RM200 to RM600 (S$64 to S$193) a tonne, depending on grade and use.
Captain Abu Zaki said the Malacca Strait has turned into a hot spot for such activities and increased patrols would continue to detain and deter those carrying out such activities.
"We will continue to keep pressure on those seeking to carry out illegal activities along our maritime borders and there will be no hold-up in our efforts," he said.
All the Chinese nationals arrested will be investigated under the Merchant Shipping Ordinance 1952 and the Immigration Act 1959/63.
According to the Malay Mail, Wednesday's arrest was the third such incident along the Malacca Strait since last August. All of them involved China-built dredge ships operated by Chinese nationals.