KUALA LUMPUR - A Chinese ship carrying over 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 on Friday.
The Xin Zhou 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.
Nine Chinese nationals, consisting of eight crew and one skipper aged between 41 and 60, were arrested, said Selangor MMEA director Captain Abu Zaki Mohammed said. All but one of those arrested carried Chinese passports.
"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 (S$64) to RM600 (S$193) per tonne, depending on grade and use.
Mr Abu Zaki said the Malacca Strait has turned into a hotspot 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.
"The public is urged to report any illegal or suspicious activity by contacting our MERS 999 24-hour hotline."
He said public cooperation and vigilance were vital to curb such activities.
All the Chinese nationals arrested would be investigated under the Merchant Shipping Ordinance 1952 and the Immigration Act 1959/63.
Mr Abu Zaki said Klang MMEA would continue to enhance monitoring of areas identified as hotspots to curb maritime crime off the Selangor coast.
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.