Wednesday, November 10, 2010

So Do We Need Another Bunga Mas 5?

The United Nations has been reported as saying that "Piracy off the coast of Somalia is outpacing efforts to combat it and more is needed to attack the problem at its root by creating economic alternatives for young Somalis, pirates employ larger vessels and attack further off the coast to avoid stepped up patrols.....The problems would be worse if not for the very considerable international anti-piracy efforts under way".

Our small nation's own contribution to such anti piracy efforts has been for the past more than 16 months the deployment of converted merchant vessel Bunga Mas 5 crewed by a mix of regular and reserve servicemen. The last deployment lasted for 141 days, a new record, and safely escorted 109 Malaysian flagged vessels in 77 convoys not including other nations vessel tagging along. The importance of this mission has been proven where no Malaysian vessel has been hijacked or threatened since the start of Ops Fajar operations in August 2008.

However in light of the fact that "Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a report that pirates have expanded operations well into the Indian Ocean, up to 1,000 nautical miles from Somalia. Some pirates have even begun using a "mother ship" towing two or three skiffs to help launch attacks far off the coast against ever-larger freighters.", would the lone deployment of a converted merchant vessel be sufficient to meet these expanding threats. This is not even considering the hardships of our servicemen serving 7,000 miles from home including fasting and missing out on major festivals, even though this highlights our Navy's foreign operations capabilities as highlighted during the BM5 welcome home ceremony last month.

Adding another converted merchantmen may not be a sustainable option as a real naval vessel would be more effective, but since our navy's assets numbers are still not enough even for home operations, maybe this solution would be the best to meet this increasing demand for protection over a larger theater of operations. May the powers that be start to consider this if they have not done so already.

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