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KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Marine Department has issued a withdrawal letter to a local company authorised to carry out salvage work for Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) as part of a research project in Usukan waters.

Its director, Abdul Nasar Abdul Hadi, withdrew the letter of authorisation from Ugeens Berjaya Enterprise, which has commissioned a China-registered vessel to salvage materials from WWII Japanese shipwrecks.

"We faxed the letter to the company yesterday and ordered them to leave the area. The withdrawal is made under Section 491B of the Merchant Shipping Ordinance," Abdul Nasar said when contacted.

The withdrawal was issued following claims that the vessel was operating outside four approved coordinates yesterday, despite UMS officially ending its research operation on Wednesday.

As of 4.15pm, the vessel had moved farther away from the wreck site, and anchored outside of Usukan waters.

Abdul Nasar said the department despatched a team of officers to the vessel nevertheless, and found its crewmembers carrying out repair works on its engine.

Further inspection of the vessel, including its nooks and crannies, however, uncovered an anchor which had been removed from one of the Japanese shipwrecks.

Abdul Nasar said the officers seized the material and handed it over to UMS.

Meanwhile, varsity vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Mohd Harun Abdullah said whatever work carried out yesterday, if any, was not done on behalf of the varsity.

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