PETALING JAYA, Malaysia - Pirates targeting ships near Malaysian waters are now robbing crewmen of their money, handphones, laptops and personal belongings, said the Malaysia Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA).
MMEA command, control, communication and information director Captain Maritime Hamid Haji Mohd Nor said the incidents in the Indonesian waters involved mostly sea robberies against passing merchant ships.
But he warned that the problem had to be carefully addressed to prevent it from escalating into a more dangerous scenario as in the case of the Somalia sea robbers.
"The shipping community should view the matter seriously and share information and develop confidence-building measures with us," he said.
Capt Hamid said efforts were underway to establish multi-lateral working cooperation between coast guard agencies of Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines to address transnational crime at the tri-border areas of Sulu - Sulawesi Sea and between Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand for the Straits of Malacca.
He said Malaysia and Indonesia had agreed to continue carrying out regular procedures for coordinating maritime safety along the border of the two countries and enhancing cooperation with both maritime authorities.
He said they had placed piracy and robbery at sea as their main focus and statistics showed that the menace was under control in the straits.
"We will enhance our efforts to tackle piracy by increasing patrols and carrying out special operations with the collaboration of intelligence information and cooperation with maritime agencies from neighbouring countries, particularly Indonesia.
Capt Hamid said additional efforts to improve maritime security would need the commitment and close cooperation of neighbouring and regional states.
He said they were also working closely with the coast guard agencies in Asia through regular meetings and discussions, such as the Head of Asian Coast Guard Meeting.