Malaysia and Indonesia have reportedly established a rapid reaction team to prevent piracy attacks on vessels in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore (SOMS), a Malaysian admiral has said.
Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) crime investigations department maritime matters director first admiral maritime Zulkifili bin Abu Bakar said that the escalating numbers of attacks have prompted MMEA to deploy helicopter-equipped special task-and-rescue (STAR) team, Reuters reported.
Abu Bakar was quoted by the news agency as saying: "The STAR team is in addition to the other MMEA personnel tasked to combat anti-piracy / sea robbery.
"I can't tell you the number of personnel, but (it is) formidable enough to undertake any anti-hijacking operations."
The MMEA force will primarily respond to robbery and hijacking incidents, the team would also be deployed on merchant ships operated by Malaysian government-linked firms, Abu Bakar added.
The Indonesian team will be based in Batam Island and is expected to deploy two armed BO helicopters. The Malaysian side will be based in Johor.
According to security and anti-piracy groups, more than 70 ships have been attacked in the Malacca and Singapore straits this year. This is the highest number since 2008.
Indonesian Navy spokesman Zainuddin was quoted as saying: "It's not a new team (for Indonesia), but only enhancing patrol cooperation and coordination especially in (the) Malacca area.
"We have communicated and the result is significant."
Anti-piracy watchdog ReCAAP recently reported that pirates have targeted at least six vessels while underway in the eastbound lane of the traffic separation scheme (TSS) in the SOMS on 21 and 22 August.
Image: A file photo showing the security officials boarding a pirate vessel off the coast of Somalia. Photo: EU (File photo).