Yacht Operating Sunset Cruise in Langkawi without License – Legal Aspects

by | Sep 7, 2022 | Business, Featured, Law, Tourism Law

It was reported on 22 August 2022 that the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) had seized a yacht for operating cruise services without a license. The case was being investigated under the Merchant Shipping Ordinance 1952 for the failure to submit valid documentation. MMEA reminded all yacht operators carrying out ‘sunset cruise’ activities to comply with all licensing, insurance, and safety requirements to safeguard the safety of tourists and yacht passengers. The agency also reminded tourists to check with yacht operators and ensure they were registered with the Malaysian Marine Department to avoid untoward incident.

What are the legal aspects of a Yacht Operating Sunset Cruise in Langkawi without a valid License?

Issue: What are the legislation and licenses that sunset cruise is subject to?


  • Merchant Shipping Ordinance 1952 (Section 474)
  • Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC)
  • Akta Pendaftaran Kapal Layar Antarabangsa Langkawi 2003[1]
    • Only applicable to all registered commercial yacht carrying more than 12 passengers, and within Malaysian waters.
    • Not applicable to yacht carrying less than 12 passengers.


  • Generally, sunset cruise would need require various licenses. Refer to User Guideline for Boat Licensing[2]
  • You need to note that vessel registration falls under the jurisdiction of Malaysian Marine Department or Jabatan Laut Malaysia. Certificate of Registration from Jabatan Laut Malaysia must be obtained.


Issue: What about Insurance policy?[3]

It is mandatory to have insurance policy or financial security for all vessels in the waters of Peninsular Malaysia, the waters of the Federal Territory of Labuan and/or the Exclusive Economic Zone of Malaysia.

  • The mandatory requirement also applies to all vessels including Malaysian vessels and boats licensed under 300 Gross Tonnage operating in the waters mentioned above.
  • Each insurance policy must contain 5 items which are:
    • Crew abandonment, repatriation, illness, injury and loss of life; and
    • Fixed and floating objects with the exception of ships; and
    • Oil pollution liability; and
    • Wreck removal; and
    • Passenger liability.
  • It is to ensure safety of the ship and prevent marine pollution in Malaysian waters.
  • If any vessel does not comply with this requirement of mandatory insurance, the vessel can be compounded for maximum RM50,000 under Section 361(1) of the Merchant Shipping Ordinance 1952.

s.61 of Langkawi International Yacht Registry

Every Langkawi yacht shall carry insurance cover against risks of loss and damage to third parties, in particular the owner’s liabilities to a crew member, and in respect of the removal of the yacht in the event that the yacht is abandoned or becomes a wreck.

 Issue: What about passengers safety?

  • There are some guidelines for the technical and safety requirement for passenger yacht operating in Malaysia waters, which laid down detailed requirements such as evacuation plan, general arrangement plan, signage, emergency contact list and fire control plans. [4]
  • MMEA Northern Region deputy director (Operations) Captain Zulinda Ramly said that boat owners are required to register their vessels with the Domestic Shipping Licensing Board and obtain recreation permits from the respective municipal councils.
  • Without a proper license, if a passenger ride and allow the vessel to sail, the passenger’s next of kin might not be able to take action against the boat owner when a tragedy happened.[5]


Why It Matters to You as a Passenger

It is important as a passenger to ensure that the yacht you are boarding is properly licenses and insured. Licenses insures a minimal safety and operational standard is adhered to by the yacht operators. Without valid licenses to operate, yacht may also not have passenger insurance. No one goes on holiday on a yacht expecting things to go wrong but accidents happen; lives are at risks. Don’t take unnecessary risks. Always look for licensed operators when on holiday.

Nik Erman Nik Roseli | Commercial Lawyer Nur Athirah binti Azli | Legal Intern



[1] Akta Pendaftaran Kapal Layar Antarabangsa Langkawi.

[2] User Guideline For Boat Licensing.

[3] Refer to No. 6 on Insurance Policy at this link.

[4] Requirement and technical safety for passenger yacht operating in Malaysia waters trading limit.

[5] Illegal boat operators put passengers lives at risk.

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