The Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) formalised the relocation of its Region 2 Command from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan on 17 October.
The relocation actually began on 30 August as part of the RMN’s overall reorganisation of operational commands.
The process began on 27 April with the splitting of the RMN Fleet Command into the Western Fleet Command at RMN Lumut to oversee operations around Peninsular Malaysia, and the Eastern Fleet Command for East Malaysia operations based at RMN Kota Kinabalu.
The Region 2 Command was previously responsible for operations in East Malaysia but, with establishment of the Eastern Fleet Command, its responsibility is now solely for operations off the east coast of Sabah.
Since the Sulu incursion of 2013 and a spate of kidnappings by Philippine armed groups, there has been an increase in Malaysian military forces deployed there, plus stepped-up naval patrols to prevent further incidents.
In the Region 2 area the RMN operates a converted oil platform base and two mobile sea bases in the form of the converted merchant ships Bunga Mas 5 and Tun Azizan from which RMN fast craft and RHIBs conduct patrols.
The Region 2 Command now oversees the RMN’s part of the Trilateral Maritime Patrol initiative between Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines in the Sulu and Celebes Seas.
Aside from overseeing all RMN operations in the East Malaysia area, the Eastern Fleet Command will also be directly responsible for all RMN operations off the west coast of East Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak states) plus operations in the South China Sea, including five RMN stations in the Spratly Islands.
However, operations off the Sarawak coastline will eventually be taken over by the RMN Region 4 Command currently being established at Bintulu, Sarawak. No formal operationalisation date has yet been set, but the nucleus for the command has been there since late 2016.