SHAH ALAM: The RMN diver team from the Sandakan naval base on January 26 has recovered the Joint Force Headquarters 2 (ATB) RHIB, which partially sunk after it was hit by waves, a day earlier. The seven soldiers on the RHIB were rescued after two hours in the water. The salvage of the RHIB – designated Viper 07 – was likely conducted to recover the weapons and ammunition carried by the soldiers as well as partially sunk vessel itself, as it had become a hazard for other water users.
The RMN did not say whether they recovered the weapons or not. The salvaged boat was later towed to the ATB2 jetty in Batu Sapi, Sandakan. The salvage operation was conducted by the crew of Combat Boat 215 with RMN divers, together with MMEA personnel and soldiers from ATB2.
The seven soldiers on the RHIB were rescued by a Marine police boat about 11am on January 25. They were enroute to the ATB jetty in Sandakan from their Bakungan island station located some twenty-one nautical miles (40km) off Sandakan. The soldiers were enroute to collect fuel and moral visit when the incident occurred.
In a video posted by the rescuers – General Operations Force personnel – one of the soldiers told the policemen that they lost their weapons when their RHIB sank. One of the policemen told the soldiers not to worry about them as it was more important to save their lives first instead. At that point only one of the soldiers have been taken out of the water while another six were still to be rescued. They told the rescuers that they have been in the water for two hours, around the partially sunk RHIB. From previous ATB posting, the soldiers operating on the Viper RHIBs are usually armed with M4 carbines and one machinegun -either a FN MAG or a Minimi.
The posting by RMN:
PASUKAN SELAM MAWILLA 2 LAKSANAKAN OPERASI PENIMBULAN (SALVAGE) KE ATAS BOT RONDA ATB 2 YANG KARAM DI PERAIRAN PULAU BERHALA
SANDAKAN, 26 Januari 2023 – Cawangan Selam Unit 2, Markas Wilayah Laut 2 (MAWILLA 2) berjaya melaksanakan Operasi Penimbulan (SALVAGE) ke atas Bot Ronda milik Angkatan Bersama 2 (ATB 2) yang terlibat dengan insiden karam dipukul ombak besar di sekitar perairan Pulau Berhala pada 25 Januari 2023, lalu.
Bilik Operasi MAWILLA 2 telah menerima maklumat awal dari Markas Angkatan Bersama 2 (Mk ATB 2) menyatakan terdapat sebuah bot ronda milik ATB 2 karam di sekitar perairan Pulau Berhala. Kesemua krew bot telah berjaya diselamatkan oleh pihak Batalion 15 Pasukan Gerakan Am (PGA) yang sedang melaksanakan rondaan di kawasan tersebut. Pihak MAWILLA 2 seterusnya telah mengambil tindakan segera dengan mengaktifkan Operasi Carilamat (SAR) dan SALVAGE dalam usaha mencari seterusnya menimbulkan bot tersebut.
Pada 26 Januari 2023 iaitu sekitar jam 8.30 pagi, pihak Mk ATB 2 telah memaklumkan bot karam tersebut telah ditemui di sekitar perairan Pulau Berhala dalam keadaan hampir karam sepenuhnya. Pasukan Selam MAWILLA 2 telah diaturgerakkan menaiki Bot Tempur 215 bagi melaksanakan Operasi SALVAGE ke atas bot tersebut. Kerja-kerja pelaksanaan operasi telah mengambil masa selama dua jam untuk berjaya menimbulkan bot tersebut yang seterusnya ditunda ke Jeti Batu Sapi (JBS), Sandakan.
Tindakan pantas hasil kerjasama erat semua agensi keselamatan terlibat jelas mempamerkan kecekapan dan tahap professionalisme pasukan keselamatan negara sentiasa berada pada tahap tertinggi dalam menangani sebarang kemungkinan yang tidak diduga. Selain itu, usaha ini juga secara tidak langsung mempamerkan kesiapsiagaan Pasukan Selam TLDM yang sedia diaturgerak pada sebilangan masa dalam melaksanakan operasi SAR dan SALVAGE.
Syabas kepada semua warga pasukan keselamatan terlibat yang telah berganding bahu menggembleng tenaga menyumbang bakti dalam operasi ini.
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The Viper RHIBs have been operational in the ESSCOM AOR since 2015 when the government signed a contract with MRI Technologies Sdn Bhd under a government operate, company owned and maintain (GOCOM) arrangement. The 10-meter long RHIB called Poseidon by MRI but designated Viper by ATB can carry up to 10 crew with a cruising speed of 35 knots and top speed of 55 knots.
Despite their apparent usefulness in shallow waters around the coast and islands dotting the ESSCOM AOR, operating them in open waters are hazardous indeed as shown by the sinking of Viper 07. Perhaps, it is time for ATB2 to use crew supply boats for resupply missions for island stations and only used the RHIBs for patrol and interdiction missions around them. Contracting civilian owned boats is not without precedence as the Army routinely contracted civilian boats for the resupply mission for its soldiers stationed on Pulau Pisang, just off the Pontian, Johor.
It must be noted that the Bakungan island is part of the Turtle island chain. Three of these islands belonged to Malaysia while the other four are in Philippine waters. Soldiers have been stationed there likely since 2006 following the kidnapping of tourists on Sipadan island. There are other various island stations around the ESSCOM AOR stretching from Kudat to Tawau, many of which are unpublicised for security reasons. On bigger islands, lives of the soldiers may well be more conducive while those in smaller ones may well have to rough it out more during their time there.
— Malaysian Defence