Patrols in Malaysian waters, especially in the Straits of Malacca, will be beefed up this year.
"Substantial allocations have been set aside for the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) to buy helicopters and offshore patrol vessels, said MMEA director-general Datuk Mohammad Nik.
"Negotiations with the producer of the helicopters for patrols and for search-and-rescue operations are under way. Before the end of this year, we should have enough helicopters and specialised vessels to patrol our waters."
He was announcing that MMEA’s first anniversary celebration will be held at its eastern maritime regional office in Bandar Indera Mahkota, Kuantan, on Feb 15.
MMEA received a fleet of 70 boats from several government enforcement agencies like the Royal Malaysian Navy and the Fisheries and Customs Departments.
Most are over 25 years old. Some have been in service for 45 years.
"In order for us to be able to do our jobs effectively, we need at least 116 vessels," said Mohammad.
He added that MMEA will also add 4,000 officers and rank-and-file personnel to its existing force of 2,000.
"About 400 new personnel are already receiving military training at the naval training centre. Next month, we will have our first batch of 80 officers who are degree and diploma holders," he said.
In the past year, MMEA has checked more than 400 vessels, resulting in 200 seizures of their consignments or the detention of crew members.
"Our main focus is the Straits of Malacca as it is the busiest lane in terms of shipping activity."