Bob: 02.06.09  New Straits Times.

Container ship joins navy to fight pirates.

A container ship has joined the navy as an auxiliary vessel on its anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden. MISC Bhd, in collaboration with the Royal Malaysian Navy and the National Security Council converted the MV Bunga Mas Lima to escort and protect its ships sailing through the pirate-infested gulf off the coast of Somalia.

This follows last year's hijacking of two MISC ships there.

In a statement yesterday, MISC said the conversion was carried out by its heavy engineering arm Malaysia Marine and Heavy Engineering Sdn Bhd here. The Bunga Mas Lima is the first Malaysian merchant ship to be converted into an auxiliary vessel for the navy.

A ceremony to commemorate the successful conversion of the ship was held here yesterday, attended by Deputy Defence Minister Datuk Dr Abdul Latif Ahmad, navy chief Admiral Datuk Seri Abdul Aziz Jaafar and MISC president and chief executive officer Amir Hamzah Azizan.

Since last year's hijackings, RMN had launched Op Fajar, a rescue, escort and protection mission, with the aim of ensuring the safe passage of all MISC vessels in the Gulf of Aden. The navy has deployed five ships in support of that mission. But with Bunga Mas Lima, one of the five ships currently stationed in the Gulf of Aden, will return to Malaysia this month.

The RMN auxiliary vessel will be manned by MISC personnel, who had completed a training programme with RMN. The crew, now taking on the role of navy reservists, will be responsible for the navigation and maintenance of the vessel.

Regular officers and navy men will also be on board the vessel to carry out security-related operations. Under international law, an auxiliary ship is a ship other than a warship, which is owned or under the control of the military. It is operated by the government and thus, the ship is accorded sovereign immunity.