Tindakan Pantas APMM Selamatkan Anak Kapal Dayang Topaz

MV Dayang Topaz, accommodation work boat milik DESB Marine Services Sdn Bhd yang dibina pada tahun 2010, mempunyai 199 tempat tidur untuk para pekerja dan anak kapal.

Pagi semalam kita dikejutkan dengan berita bahawa sebuah accommodation work boat milik DESB Marine Services Sdn Bhd, ‘MV Dayang Topaz’, telah karam dan dua orang meninggal dunia. Disyaki mooring anchor wirenya telah putus dalam keadaan laut yang bergelora serta ombak tinggi 4.5 meter mengakibatkan kapal tersebut menghentam pelantar Baram ‘B’ sebelum terbalik dan karam.

Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) yang telah menerima laporan daripada kapal ‘MV Sapura Constructor’ yang telah menerima isyarat kecemasan daripada ‘MV Dayang Topaz’. MRCC kemudiannya menghubungi semua kapal serta agensi-agensi tempatan dan antarabangsa yang berada berhampiran kawasan tersebut untuk memberi bantuan. Di antara aset-aset Agensi Penguatkuasaan Maritim Malaysia (APMM) yang berada di lokasi tersebut adalah KM Siagut, KM Siakap dan Bot Penggalang 23. Pada masa yang sama, MRCC juga menghubungi komuniti nelayan tempatan, syarikat-syarikat seperti PETRONAS, Shell, agensi-agensi seperti Tentera Udara Diraja Malaysia (TUDM), Jabatan Bomba dan Penyelamat Malaysia (JBPM), dan agensi antarabangsa berhampiran seperti National Search Coordination Center (NSCC) Brunei, yang telah menugaskan sebuah pesawat Brunei Shell Petroleum.

Ramai yang mungkin tidak tahu bahawa MRCC adalah pusat operasi yang ditubuhkan oleh APMM untu mengawal dan menyelaras operasi mencari dan menyelamat (MSAR) di perairan Malaysia. Berpusat di Putrajaya, MRCC ditubuhkan mengikut keperluan Mencari dan Menyelamat Udara dan Maritim Antarabangsa (IAMSAR). Berdasarkan Jilid IV IAMSAR, APMM menjadi organisasi yang bertanggung jawab terhadap semua insiden maritim. Ketua Pengarah APMM menjadi ketua perkhidmatan MSAR, manakala MRCC menjadi organisasi yang mengkoordinasi operasi dan menggerakkan segala aset untuk membantu.

Tanggung jawab yang digalas oleh APMM untuk melakukan operasi MSAR adalah amat berat memandangkan jangkauan Wilayah Mencari dan Menyelamat (MSSR) yang agak luas. Ianya merangkumi kawasan sehingga ke Kepulauan Andaman di sebelah barat Semenanjung, seluruh kawasan Zon Ekonomi Eksklusif (ZEE) Malaysia di sebelah timur Semenanjung, dan seluruh kawasan pantai negeri Sabah dan Sarawak serta ZEE.

Keberkesanan APMM melaksanakan tugas dan tanggung jawab MSAR bergantung kepada dua perkara utama, iaitu jenis dan jumlah aset atas permukaan laut dan udara milik APMM, dan keberkesanan sistem pengesanan kecemasan milik kapal-kapal dan bot-bot dalam wilayah tersebut. Saya difahamkan bahawa aset-aset atas permukaan laut yang dimiliki APMM ada pelbagai jenis yang dibina atau diperolehi mengikut penugasan masing-masing. Sebagai contoh, kapal peronda luar pesisir pantai (OPV) milik APMM yang diperolehi dari Jepun, ‘KM Arau’ dan ‘KM Pekan’ adalah dibina khusus untuk penugasan SAR kerana memiliki rekabentuk yang lebih stabil di kelajuan yang perlahan, manakala tiga buah OPV yang sedang dibina di Pulau Indah lebih merupakan kapal pelbagai peranan yang lebih sesuai. Kapal-kapal peronda generasi baharu (NGPC), kapal-kapal peronda laju yang diperolehi dari PDRM dan lain-lain agensi pula lebih sesuai ditugaskan di perairan pesisir pantai. Lebih banyak aset pelbagai peranan diperlukan dan bersesuaian dengan zon-zon penugasan.

Lebih banyak aset udara berkemampuan juga diperlukan, lebih-lebih lagi dalam keadaan pengoperasian pengawalan kedaulatan perairan negara dan juga tugas-tugas MSAR. Malah, aset-aset udara tersebut juga perlu boleh ditugaskan dalam pelbagai jenis cuaca dan lebih penting lagi, dilengkapi secukupnya untuk penugasan malam. Kita amat maklum dengan tragedi yang menimpa sebuah helikopter Sikorsky S-61A4 Nuri milik TUDM pada 16 Oktober 1996 ketika membuat penugasan menyelamat di laut pada waktu malam berhampiran Muka Head, Pulau Pinang yang mengorbankan seramai tiga orang anak kapal manakala dua lagi terselamat.

Berbalik kepada insiden ‘MV Dayang Topaz’, hubungan kerjasama antarabangsa di antara MRCC dan NSCC Brunei telah membolehkan penugasan operasi MSAR dijalankan dengan pantas. Penggunaan Sistem Global Kecemasan Maritim dan Keselamatan (GMDSS) untuk kapal-kapal bersaiz 300 tan ke atas atau lain-lain sistem seperti Suar Radio Kecemasan Yang Menunjukkan Kedudukan (EPIRB), Pemancar Kedudukan Kecemasan (ELT) untuk bot-bot lebih kecil dan juga Suar Kedudukan Persendirian (PLB) untuk peminat aktiviti laut juga dapat membantu pihak MRCC mencari kedudukan orang atau bot dan kapal yang perlu diselamatkan dengan lebih cekap dan pantas. Inilah kenapa sistem-sistem ini penting untuk semua yang menjalankan aktiviti-aktiviti di laut.

Dan sudah tentunya pencarian dan penyelamatan mereka yang memerlukan perkhidmatan ini akan menjadi lebih mantap sekiranya APMM dibekalkan dengan aset-aset yang amat diperlukan.

SAREX LIMA 2015 – The RMAF EC725

The survivor floats on the surface of the sea, having escaped a plane crash less than an hour ago.  The current here is strong and he drifts farther away from the main group of survivors.  Then he saw a speck of grey flying towards him.  It was a Airbus Helicopter EC725 dubbed the Super Cougar, the new workhorse of the Royal Malaysian Air Force.

Inside the cockpit, the pilot could spot the lone survivor and a few others, drifting towards the open sea.  Thanks to the AHCAS (Advanced Helicopter Cockpit and Avionics System), pilots of the EC725 could do what its predecessor, the Sikorsky S-61A4 Nuri, could not.  The EC725 features a full glass cockpit and the Active Matrix Liquid Crystal Displays ensure the pilots better monitoring of the displays under the glaring late morning sun.

The pilot hovers over the drifting survivor. He is assisted by a digital search and rescue system that provides automatic search patterns, transition and hover. Unlike the Nuri, the EC725 could “drift” along with the survivor as the winch strop is lowered by the air quartermaster.  Although the hover altitude is higher (more than double the Nuri’s), the EC725 managed to pick up the drifting survivor and other drifting survivors in no time, thanks to the powerful twin Turbomeca Makila 1A4 turboshaft engines that features a dual-channel Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC) , something the Nuri was not capable of.  The Nuri would have to fly away after a couple of pick ups to cool its engines off.

The above was the Water Search And Rescue portion of the Search and Rescue exercise (SAREX LIMA 15) in preparation for next week’s Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition 2015 (LIMA 2015).  The exercise was divided into two segments, Water SAR and Land SAR.  SAREX LIMA 15 was to test the Search and Rescue plan and inter-agencies coordination and logistical cooperation.  The aim was to test, assess and improve the Airport Emergency Plan before the commencement of LIMA 2015. The Exercise was held from the 4th to 6th March 2015 and involved among others the Royal Malaysian Air Force, Royal Malaysian Police, Royal Malaysian Navy, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad, the Fire and Rescue Services Department, the Malaysian Marine Department, Ministry of Health, the Malaysian Meteorological Department, the Malaysian Army’s Royal Medical Corps, Malaysia Airlines, Air Asia and last but not least, the Department of Civil Aviation of Malaysia.  Assets that were involved included two helicopters, 11 surface vessels and four jet-skis.

The EC725 takes off carrying critically-injured survivors during SAREX LIMA 15
The EC725 takes off carrying critically-injured survivors during SAREX LIMA 15

When met, RMAF’s Chief of Staff (Air Operations) Major General Dato Haji Abdul Mutalib bin Abdul Wahab TUDM said that he was awed by the superb performance of the EC725.  He opined that the EC725 is by far the best search-and-rescue asset he has ever seen, given the capabilities it displayed during SAREX LIMA 15.  This is of course of utmost importance as there are quarters bent on ridiculing military purchases.  Seeing with my own eyes how the EC725 was able to hover effortlessly throughout the exercise brought much satisfaction to me knowing that this was the correct choice made by the RMAF and there should not be any politically-motivated condemnation towards the organisation for purchasing what it should have had for the longest time.

The Fire and Rescue Services Department should also be applauded for a superb medical evacuation exercise task performed at SAREX LIMA 15 using its Mi-171 helicopter.

The FRSD's Mi-171 takes off carrying three critically-injured survivors during SAREX LIMA 15
The FRSD’s Mi-171 takes off carrying three critically-injured survivors during SAREX LIMA 15

It is hoped that the inter-agencies coordination that was put to test during SAREX LIMA 15 will better prepare the emergency services for any eventuality not just for LIMA 2015, but for all search-and-rescue incidents.

MH 370: Is It Fair To Blame Malaysia By Saying She Was Slow To React?

Prologue

On Sunday, 23rd Monday, 24th March 2014, the Malaysian Prime Minister announced that based on the findings of the UK-based Aircraft Accidents Investigations Board it was concluded that the flight of the MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean.

This was met by heavy criticism in particular by families and relatives of the passengers who are in Beijing. This is understandable. As humans, we always cling on whatever glimmer of hope there is that our loved ones will somehow appear unscathed. I went through this when my brother passed away three months ago. I kept thinking that this was all a bad dream and that I would wake up to my brother’s jokes, laughter and hugs again. However, such hope should be balanced with situational logic – the acceptance of reality and that should help overcome the pathological grief a person would have. The sooner one accepts reality, the sooner the trauma will heal.

This pathological grief will get prolonged not only if one refuses to accept reality, but also by irresponsible acts to promote hope. Hope is the act of prolonging the arrival of the inevitable. I will here chide the opposition parliamentarians who call upon the government to provide physical proof that the MH370 had indeed crashed. May I just forcefully drag everyone to the reality that the aircraft cannot fly for 19 days; based on the Doppler effect triangulation the last possible location of the aircraft points to the extremely unforgiving southern Indian Ocean. If anyone, just any one person could survive the extremities of the whole situation, then let us just call that a bonus from God. While hope is good to a certain extent, my only hope is for the black boxes to be located before the batteries run out.

The search for debris is not going to be an easy task even on a normal day. Australia’s Prime Minister has described it as “looking for a needle in a haystack, but having to find the haystack first.” I would take that a step farther by saying it is like looking for hundreds of pieces of one single needle in a haystack that has yet to be found. How is that as a perspective? Now add nine-metre waves with lots and lots of whitecaps into the equation.

I take offence at a statement by representatives of the families in Beijing, as well as members of the foreign media, AND the Quislings amongst us here in Malaysia that we (Malaysia and its military) have murdered the passengers and crew, and that we have either been hiding or not been forthcoming with information or both. Malaysia has been providing all information pertaining to this incident on a daily basis, and even to the extent of sharing sensitive military data that has jeopardised its defence just so to render search and rescue efforts more effective. With the information made available to me as well as by Andak Jauhar’s analysis of the MH370 incident I shall draw a timeline so readers would understand why was the SAR conducted in the South China Sea, when exactly was SAR expanded to the west of Peninsular Malaysia, and how fast did information flow in. All times quoted in this timeline is Malaysian time (UTC +8):

08 March 2014

0041 – MH370 took off from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport with 227 passengers and 12 crew members bound for Beijing with an endurance of approximately eight hours.

0107 – the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) made its last transmission on the aircraft’s performance. All systems were running as per normal. Next transmission was due at 0137 hours.

0119 – a person believed to be the co-pilot acknowledged the handing over of the MH370 from Malaysia’s Flight Information Region (FIR) to Vietnam’s FIR. His last words were, “Alright, goodnight.”

0121 – the secondary radar at Subang’s Air Traffic Control centre lost contact with the MH370 over waypoint IGARI at 06.5515N 103.3443E, after a deliberate act of turning off the transponder as well as other communications equipment. The aircraft was then at 35,000 feet above sea level. However, the aircraft continues to be tracked by the Royal Malaysian Air Force’s (RMAF) primary radar and had its flight path towards waypoint VAMPI monitored and recorded by RMAF’s Air Defence Centres.

0215 – RMAF’s primary radar consistently monitored the path of the MH370 from waypoints VAMPI, GIVAL before finally losing track of it after waypoint IGREX while flying at 29,500 feet above sea level.

As a Contracting State to the ICAO Convention of 1944, Malaysia assumed the role of the Rescue Coordination Centre under Annex 12 of the Convention for the MH370 Search and Rescue efforts because the MH370 had yet to enter Vietnamese FIR control (its radar had not detected the MH370 yet when she changed her flight path). Based on sightings of debris, the Search and Rescue efforts concentrated at its last known position near waypoint IGARI.

0630 – MH370 was to have arrived in Beijing.

0811 – the last handshake between the MH370’s navigation system and an INMARSAT satellite was made.

1017 – Rear Admiral Ngo Van Phat of the Vietnamese Navy announced that the MH370 may have crashed about 153 nautical miles (300km) from Tho Chu island, near Ca Mau. This statement was carried by Tuoi Tre News and was subsequently picked up and released by Reuters at 1302 hours, sending SAR assets into the area.

20140326-130701.jpg

1730 – based on the flight path monitored by the RMAF, the SAR effort was also expanded into the Strait of Malacca.

09 March 2014

– search around Tho Chu island failed to yield anything.

– the SAR efforts were expanded into the Andaman Sea. The RMAF’s sensitive radar data recordings have been shared with the SAR authorities.

10 March 2014

1343 – Vietnamese news agency Tuoi Tre reported that a passing aircraft from Singapore spotted an orange object possibly a liferaft or a lifejacket 177km northwest of Tho Chu island. SAR assets deployed later identified this object as a cable wrap.

11 March 2014

The Malaysian Chief of Air Force issued a press statement refuting a report by the Malaysian daily Berita Harian that quoted him as supposedly saying the aircraft had flown towards Pulau Perak.

20140326-131528.jpg

12 March 2014

The official website of the State Administration of Science, Technology, and Industry for National Defence of China (SASTIND) showed pictures of three objects spotted in the South China Sea believed to be related to the MH370.  These photos were then shown to the public by the China Central Television (CCTV), Xinhua News Agency, CNN, BBC and also by other foreign news agencies.  According to SASTIND, these images were taken at latitude 6.7N 105.65E at 11.00am on 9th March 2014.

SASTIND website showing debris thought to be related to the MH370
SASTIND website showing debris thought to be related to the MH370

Hence, SAR assets were again sent to verify the findings which we now know were false sightings, but not before more time and concentration of vital resources have been wasted.

14 March 2014

– search was expanded into the Indian Ocean.

15 March 2014

The Malaysian Prime Minister announced that the object tracked by the RMAF’s primary radar was indeed the MH370. This conclusion was made based on processed data acquired from INMARSAT and concurred by the FAA, NSTB, AAIB and the Malaysian authorities.

20 March 2014

The Australian Prime Minister announced satellite images showing large debris in the southern Indian Ocean. The image was taken four days earlier.

22 March 2014

The Chinese government announced that its satellite had found debris in the southern Indian Ocean. That image too was taken four days prior to the announcement.

24 March 2014

The Prime Minister of Malaysia announced that based on triangulation of handshakes between the MH370 and satellites, the flight ended in the southern Indian Ocean.

The rest is academic.

Epilogue

The timeline displayed above shows how Malaysia has, from Day One, been moving as fast as it could to get to the correct pointers only to be side-tracked by false and unverified sightings.  Malaysia has also been sharing everything, and literally everything including data of its sensitive military capabilities, as well as air bases so the search and rescue effort would benefit the best out of the information made available to them by the Malaysian authorities.

The timeline above also displays the average time of four days needed for satellite images to be processed before they can be safely suggested to the search and rescue teams.

What the timeline above suggests is that while the authorities are working hard to find the missing aircraft, the families as well as the public in general ought to exercise patience and restraint in their quest to know what happened. The media should be more responsible in reporting the incident as well as the search and rescue efforts as not only will the effects be adversely negative, but irresponsible reporting provides false hopes to the family that are put on an emotional roller-coaster ride on a daily basis.

And to those who call themselves Malaysians but continue in bashing whatever effort the government offers in bringing this episode to a closure, I doubt you qualify even a place as a zoological display for despicable animals.

Shame on you.