Singapore Air Show

Avast maties, maritime cops are flying our way

 - December 1, 2006, 6:05 AM

As an aid to combating piracy in this region, Alenia has offered the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) the use of two previously owned ATR 42 MP (maritime patrol) aircraft to be operated by a local company on its behalf. Reporting to the defense minister, the MMEA began operations in November last year under the purview of the Prime Minister’s Department. It operates a fleet of patrol vessels that will be expanded to total 72 in April.

The MMEA was established by the merger of the Royal Malaysian Police (Marine Branch); Royal Malaysian Customs (Marine Prevention); Fisheries Department (Resource Supervision and Protection Division); Royal Malaysian Navy (Ship Personnel); the Peninsular, Sabah and Sarawak state Maritime Departments; Department of Environment (Marine and Water Division) and the National Security Division (Malaysian Sea Surveillance System).

It is proposed that the two ATR 42 MP aircraft would work closely with the MMEA’s fleet of vessels to maximize the efforts to curb increased piracy activity in one of the world’s busiest sea routes. This includes the 500-mile-long Malacca Straits, which provides links with the Middle East and Europe and is shared by Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.

Currently carrying more than 50,000 vessels every year, the waterway is a prime target for pirates, but to coordinate efforts to deal with this threat the International Maritime Bureau created the IMB Piracy Reporting Center in Kuala Lumpur in 1992. This maintains a round-the-clock watch on the world’s shipping lanes, reporting pirate attacks to local law enforcement and issuing warnings about piracy hotspots to shipping.

Meanwhile, the Indian Coast Guard has positively evaluated the ATR 42 MR (marine reconnaissance) and plans to issue a request for proposal for two aircraft. It is known that Brunei has a requirement for three such aircraft as well.

Equipped with the latest sensors, the ATR 42 MR does not require a large crew to monitor ship movements, check for oil spills and chemical pollution, and watch out for smugglers and, of course, pirates.

To deal with more serious threats, Alenia has developed the ATR 72 ASW (antisubmarine warfare), for which the Turkish navy has placed an order for ten. This integrates the ATR 42 MR mission system with the same onboard equipment but with additional antisubmarine warfare capabilities.