MPA: Queen of the Netherlands complied with Singapore requirements

Malay Mail 11 Jul 18;

SINGAPORE, July 11 — Queen of the Netherlands, a sand dredger, complied with Singapore’s port entry and departure requirements, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said today.

The vessel also complied with the reporting procedures when navigating in the Singapore Strait during the period in question, an MPA spokesperson said in an email reply to Bernama.

MPA was asked whether it was aware of the existence of the dredger as a news report claimed that it “has been spotted sailing back and forth between Johor and southern Singapore along a sea route well known for its smuggling activity”.

A check by a Malaysian daily on June 28 on the marine traffic website showed that the ship was in Singapore waters and had been there since June 18.

“The movement of the Queen of the Netherlands showed that it exited Malaysian waters on or before June 18 and was travelling between the Changi southern tip and also parts of Jurong Island in Singapore.

“The vessel seems to be making several back-and-forth stops in between its journey last week as Singapore’s southern area has several small islands south of Sentosa Island and also Jurong Island,” a source was quoted as saying by the daily.

The source said the southern part of Singapore waters was known to be undergoing land reclamation works involving the merger of smaller islands to form a bigger island for commercial usage.

“If indeed the vessel was carrying sand for Malaysian domestic usage, its passage will bypass the islands and proceed to Johor’s west coast near Iskandar Puteri, Kukup or Pontian instead,” said the source, adding that the many stops and travel in Singapore waters were an indicator that something was not right.

Queen of the Netherlands was dubbed the largest and most powerful dredger in the world after lengthening in 2009.

Constructed in 1998, the Dutch Trailing suction hopper dredger is now a 230.71-metre long vessel with a 33,423 gross tonnage. — Bernama


Giant dredger sailing between Johor and Singapore on sand smuggling route
Malay Mail 28 Jun 18;

JOHOR BARU, June 28 — For the past one month, a titanic Dutch sand dredger dubbed the “world’s largest floating vacuum cleaner” has been spotted sailing back-and-forth between Johor and southern Singapore along a sea route well known for its smuggling activity.

The 230.71-metre long vessel with 33,423-gross tonnage has been identified as the “Queen of the Netherlands” and was recently seen in the waters off Teluk Ramunia in Kota Tinggi, raising suspicions that it may have been used in the illegal sale of sand outside the country.

Malaysia has banned sand export since 1997. It is still listed as a prohibited export item in the Customs Department’s list.

A check on the marine traffic website yesterday showed the ship was in Singapore waters and has been there since June 18.

At present, the appearance of the Queen of the Netherlands in Malaysian waters has not triggered alarms among the authorities due to ongoing land reclamation works in Teluk Ramunia on Benalec Holdings Berhad’s 677.2-hectare Pengerang Maritime Industrial Park.

The Kota Tinggi area is also known for having several sand quarries in its district.

However, satellite tracking of the vessel showed that it has been sailing on a sea route that was said to be popular with sand smugglers in 2010.

A maritime source familiar with the routes said the Queen of the Netherlands movement is peculiar, based on satellite tracking data from Inmarsat-C, which is used by sea vessels as part of their Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) and Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS).

“The movement of the Queen of the Netherlands showed that it exited Malaysian waters on or before June 18 and was travelling between the Changi southern tip and also parts of Jurong Island in Singapore.

“The vessel seems to be making several back-and-forth stops in between its journey last week as Singapore’s southern area has several small islands south of Sentosa Island and also Jurong Island,” the source told Malay Mail today on condition of anonymity.

According to the source, the southern parts of Singapore’s waters are known to be undergoing land reclamation works involving the merger of smaller islands to form a bigger island for commercial usage.

“If indeed the vessel was carrying sand for Malaysian domestic usage, its passage will bypass the islands and proceed to Johor’s west coast near Iskandar Puteri, Kukup or Pontian instead,” said the source, adding that the many stops and travelling in Singapore’s waters was an indicator that something was not right.

Another source familiar with sand dredgers said the Queen of the Netherlands is used mainly for island creations and land reclamation works.

“The massive sand dredger is capable enough to not only dredge and expel sand and stones, but can also to be used as a sand storage vessel,” said the source.

Checks showed that the Queen of the Netherlands is a Dutch Trailing suction hopper dredger ship constructed in 1998.

A trailing suction hopper dredger, in layman terms, is basically ship that has a full sailing capacity used to maintain navigable waterways, deepening the maritime canals that are threatened to become silted, to construct new land elsewhere or to replace sand eroded by storms or wave action on the beaches.

This is made possible by large powerful pumps and engines able to suck sand, clay, silt and gravel. It is also used mainly for constant delivery of sand for land reclamation works.


A tracking route of the Dutch sand dredger Queen of the Netherlands that shows its movement in the south part of Singapore shuttling between the waters off Jurong Island and also the south-east part of the island republic. — Picture courtesy of source

In 2009, the Queen of the Netherlands was lengthened. It was touted the largest and most powerful dredger in the world then.

The vessel, currently flying a Cyprus flag, has been used in high-profile salvage and dredging operations including the investigation into the Swissair Flight 111 crash and in the controversial Port Phillip Channel Deepening Project in Australia.

Those familiar with dredging vessels have dubbed the Queen of the Netherlands as “the world's largest floating vacuum cleaner”.

Malay Mail understands that maritime authorities are able to track and verify the vessel’s movement easily via their maritime radar as well as via its automatic identification system (AIS).

“The AIS tracking system is used on ships and by vessel traffic services (VTS). At the same time Malaysia has several maritime enforcement agencies such as the marine police, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) and Marine Department to investigate the allegations of illegal sand smuggling,” a source said.

In open waters, the AIS functions as an automated tracking system that displays other vessels in the vicinity. It works as a broadcast transponder system which operates in the VHF mobile maritime band.

A vessel fitted with a AIS system will also show on the screens of other vessels in the vicinity, provided the vessel is fitted with the system.

In 2010, The Star reported that sand worth millions of ringgit had been illegally “floated” out of the country daily via Sungai Johor in Johor Baru since 2007.

The report found that the sand ended up in Singapore, despite a ban on sand export imposed by the Malaysian government.

The culprits were suspected to be part of a syndicate and had used barges to pass through the international waters from Kota Tinggi and Ulu Tiram where they load up sand for shipment to Pulau Punggol Timur in Singapore.

However, there have been some exceptions to the sand export ban.

The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry under the Najib administration had granted approved permits to two companies to export sand to India late last year.

However, the approval was only for sand sources from dredging the Sungai Pahang and Sungai Kelantan river estuaries in those states under a special arrangement on a case-by-case basis.

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