Johor - an illegal diesel export hub?

Nelson Benjamin in Johor Baru/The Star
Asia News Network

Johor Baru (The Star/ANN) - Diesel smugglers are siphoning off at least 7.5 million litres of the fuel or 10 per cent of the state's needs each month.

The stolen diesel, worth 13.5 million ringgit (US$4.3 million), is smuggled out to those wanting to sell the fuel overseas, especially to Singapore, turning Johor into an illegal "export hub".

"We estimate that about 10 per cent is being smuggled out via boats in Sg Johor, Penggerang, Batu Pahat and Kukup," said Johor National Security Council secretary Mohamad Yusri Hashim.

Mohamad Yusri, who spoke to reporters at the closing ceremony of a three-day joint operations by various agencies beginning Feb 4 to curb diesel smuggling both on land and sea, said Johor needed an average of 75 million litres of diesel each month.

He added that the diesel smuggling activities adversely affected the state's transportation and small-scale industrial sectors.

Asked whether Singapore was the top destination where the smuggled diesel was channelled, Mohamad Yusri refused to elaborate, but said the vessels detained while receiving the fuel were all Singapore-registered.

"Presently, subsidised diesel is priced at 1.80 ringgit per litre while the market price for diesel is about 2.80 ringgit per litre. This means the smugglers make almost 1 ringgit per litre," he added.

The price of diesel in Singapore is about S$1.50 (3.45 ringgit) per litre.

Mohamad Yusri added that the authorities would continue to step up operations to deter diesel smuggling due to the many complaints that the Government had received.

He stressed that the smugglers used modified trucks to buy diesel from various petrol stations before storing them at collection points.

"Then the diesel is sent to vessels at selected areas before it is shipped overseas. Transactions and oil transfers are also done at sea," he added.

Meanwhile, Maritime Enforcement Agency (APMM) Southern Region enforcement chief Maritime First Admiral Adon Shalan said almost 125,940 litres of diesel were seized from smugglers between Feb 4 and Feb 7 both at sea and on land.

"The Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Department, along with other agencies, detained three lorries and seized 2,200 litres of diesel in three operations.

"The Customs Department detained two ships in Penggerang for illegal transfer of 123,740 litres of diesel," he said.

Admiral Adon added that his agency detained two vessels in Teluk Ramunia for illegal transfer of 50,000 litres of marine fuel oil and 30,000 litres of marine gas oil worth 240,000 ringgit.

"We have also detained 36 crew members from the vessels to assist in investigations," he said.

He added that the APMM along with the other agencies would step up operations against diesel smugglers in the state.

*US$1=3.0 ringgit