KUALA TERENGGANU, Sept 9 — Eight tourist boats in Terengganu were ordered to turn back by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) after it was found that the number of passengers exceeded the number allowed on the vessels.

Terengganu MMEA director Maritime Capt Muhammad Suffi Mohd Ramli said the offence was discovered after the agency carried out 95 inspections through Operasi Anai-Anai Laut in the waters of Besut, Merang in Setiu and the islands in the area over a period of five days beginning Sunday.

“Besides being ordered to turn back to base and reduce the number of passengers according to the number allowed, the operators of the boats involved were also given a stern warning,” he said in a statement today.

The boat operators were taking advantage of the school holidays by offering daily packages from Kuala Besut in Besut, Pantai Penarik and Merang in Setiu and they ignored the safety of passengers due to the high demand.

“The attitude of making profits to the point of carrying excessive loads of passengers can result in tragedies,” he said.

On another matter, he said Operasi Anai-Anai Laut was launched to step up enforcement by increasing the readiness of assets, personnel, and enforcement, especially in tourist areas such as beaches and resort islands around Terengganu.

He also said the operation will be carried out every year beginning this year following greater challenges from increased traffic.

“Generally search and rescue operations showed an increase in Terengganu with 17 cases registered from early 2022 to date, compared with 10 cases last year (during the same period) in the Terengganu waters. What is so worrying is the number of lives and properties lost,” he added. — Bernama