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[ 13-03-2014 ]
SME makes its presence felt in Malaysia’s surveillance systems

The Straits of Malacca is now largely “pirate-free” thanks to better enforcement by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA).

But few people know that one local SME played an important part by providing reliable and efficient radar surveillance systems to the MMEA to help the agency in its efforts to detect and curb illegal activities, including smuggling, on the high seas.

AMP Corporation (M) Sdn Bhd chairman and chief executive officer Datuk Mustaffa Abd Rahman said the systems that the company provided helped the MMEA perform its task of watching over one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes and reducing piracy.

“Keeping the straits safe encourages more ships to use the route, thus boosting trade and investment to this region,” Mustaffa told MetroBiz.

AMP, which first started from a single shop office in Shah Alam, designs, supplies, integrates and maintains sea surveillance, port vessel traffic and air traffic management systems.

An AMP technician testing radar equipment at the company's test lab in its headquarters in Shah Alam.
An AMP technician testing radar equipment at the company’s test lab in its headquarters in Shah Alam.

Today, the company occupies four two-storey light industrial buildings with about 15,000 sq ft of floor space. Its staff strength has grown from three to 210.

The company has also diversified its product offerings. These days, it also provides ballistic identification systems and firearms training simulators to the police, and air traffic simulators, among other things.

“Beyond supplying the equipment, we are able to put various technologies together and make them work with one another,” he said.

Besides integrating systems, AMP tests and repairs the systems its supplies.

Radar systems

Mustaffa started off as an electronic engineer. His first job was to provide IT solutions to various government agencies in Malaysia, including the Accountant-General’s Department.

But after working for people for several years, he decided to start his own business.

While exploring opportunities, he came across radar surveillance systems.

In 1997, he started AMP, after working with a Canadian radar technology provider as a partner in providing and installing the Malaysian Sea Surveillance System (MSSS). The company’s name is short for “ampere”, a measurement of electricity.

With RM25,000 in capital, which he obtained after pawning his wife’s jewellery and selling off her trust funds, Mustaffa and four friends who were also engineers ventured into the uncertainty of running their own business and looking for new opportunities.

Mustaffa decided that AMP should bid for the work of maintaining the MSSS radar system.

His biggest hurdle in securing the new MSSS contract was to compete with the Canadian firm which he had worked with and other well-known firms that had far more experience in handling the task. But luck was on his side and landed the contract at the end of 1998.

Mustaffa holding the SME Service Excellence Award 2012 received from SMI Association of Malaysia. He is standing beside a model of One Fathom Bank radar system.
Mustaffa holding the SME Service Excellence Award 2012 received from SMI Association of Malaysia. He is standing beside a model of the One Fathom Bank radar system AMP put in place.

“We were on the brink of closing down after struggling for a year. But the contract from the National Security Council to maintain the operational capability of nine radars overlooking the Malacca Straits changed everything,” he said.

The company continues to provide their expertise in maintaining the radar systems today. Following the success, they were given a contract to supply and install a radar system on One Fathom Bank in the Straits of Malacca, off the coast of Selangor.

This was followed by contracts to install the radar system at the Sungai Udang port in Malacca for Petronas, Tanjung Pelepas Port in Johor and Port Klang Authority.

Mustaffa said the value of each of the jobs ranged between RM4mil and RM5mil.

Sea to air

After finding success with radar systems for sea surveillance, it was time for Mustaff to look up to the skies for more work.

At the end of 2007, the company secured a contract to provide equipment and maintenance for the air traffic control system for the KL International Airport in Sepang.

The RM40mil deal involved supplying the surveillance data display and processing system, flight information display system, voice communications system, voice recording system, and air to ground radio.

The company took about a year to complete the project.

Since then AMP has taken an increasingly active role in improving the country’s aerial surveillance systems.

The company continues to win contracts to upgrade and maintain the KLIA radar system.

The monitoring system in the Malaysian Sea Surveillance System allows surveillance of up to 550km of the Straits of Malacca.
The monitoring system in the Malaysian Sea Surveillance System allows surveillance of up to 550km of the Straits of Malacca.

They have also been given the task of integrating information from five radar systems — four from KLIA and one from the Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah International Airport in Subang — into one system.

Even with a strong presence in the local security and defence-related sectors, Mustaffa said it was difficult to penetrate international markets because of the sensitive nature of the business.

Having said that, AMP still provides regional support for the firearms training simulators and ballistic identification systems for Indonesia and Brunei.

They were also appointed by a European radar manufacterer as the contractor to install a coastal surveillance radar for Iran.

Locally, AMP was also commissioned to install four more ballistic identification systems, used to identify bullets and capable of linking guns involved in crimes within an hour, for the Royal Malaysian Police.

The entire project cost the Malaysian government RM25mil. The systems were installed at the central police forensics laboratory in Cheras and three state police contingents representing the Northern, Southern and East Malaysia zones.

The control centre of the Sabah Sea Surveilance System in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.  The centre monitors the movement of vessels in the waters of the north-west coast of Sabah.
The control centre of the Sabah Sea Surveilance System in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. The centre monitors the movement of vessels in the waters off the north-west coast of Sabah.

Mustaffa said AMP has received numerous awards for its achievements, including the four-star rating under the SME Competitiveness Rating for Enhancement (SCORE) Programme run by by SME Corp.

Looking to the future, he said there is plenty of opportunity for the company to provide Malaysia with more radar systems as the company has put in place systems to cover only a portion of the country’s coastline, leaving plenty of room for growth.

He is also confident AMP would be able to increase their revenue from RM60mil last year to RM100mil in the next two years as they anticipated new projects ahead.

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