KUALA LUMPUR: Nine Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) personnel have been found by a passing merchant ship some 90 nautical miles (167km) east of Kuantan after going missing for more than 48 hours.
The crew, comprising an officer and eight sailors, were spotted by the merchant ship more than 50 nautical miles (92km) northeast from the last point of contact with its parent vessel KD Perdana on Saturday.
"The merchant ship spotted the boat at about 4pm and reported it to its agent, who subsequently informed us.
"We then dispatched a Beechcraft aircraft to the location. At 7.07pm, the aircraft confirmed sighting the boat drifting in the water with two fishing boats flanking it," RMN chief Admiral Tan Sri Ahmad Kamarulzaman Ahmad Badaruddin told The Star yesterday.
He added that no communication has been made with the boat, but the RMN has deployed a ship and is expected to reach the boat's location at about 3am today.
"We cannot confirm the condition of the personnel, but I am very positive for their well-being as they are well-trained and very fit.
"We will announce the names of the personnel involved tomorrow (today) during the press conference in Kuantan," he added.
Admiral Kamarulzaman expressed his gratitude towards fishermen associations, merchant ships, as well as navies of four ASEAN countries - Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, who were asked to help in the search and rescue (SAR) operations.
The nine men lost contact during a routine patrol in the waters off Johor together with KD Perdana, a fast attack vessel, off Tanjung Sedili, Johor.
It is understood the nine, who were in the rigid-hulled inflatable boat, were chasing foreign fishing vessels encroaching into Malaysian waters. The last known coordinates of the boat was 29 nautical miles east of Tanjung Sedili Besar.
Admiral Kamarulzaman said the smaller boat might have run out of fuel during the operations.
Naval Area Region 1 commander Rear Admiral Datuk Mohd Reza Mohd Sany, when contacted, said assets deployed in the SAR were 10 vessels and five aircraft from the RMN, Royal Malaysian Air Force, Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency and marine police.
Earlier, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak in a tweet, directed that more government assets be deployed for the SAR operation. He also thanked Malaysian fishermen for their assistance.
A member of the Sedili Fishermen's Association board of directors Bidin Sulong said an alert was issued to all fishermen in the Tanjung Sedili area soon after news came of the missing RMN boat.