Indonesian shipowners seek military support for dedicated coast guard

Attempts to establish a single coast guard authority for the nation’s growing merchant navy fraught.

INSA chair Carmelita Hartoto. Credit: Zoe Reynolds

The Indonesian National Shipowners’ Association has renewed calls for a dedicated coast guard service as a priority issue for 2019.

INSA chair Carmelita Hartoto told SAS regulation was key to Indonesia achieving its ambitions of becoming a maritime power in the region.

“We have an ocean highway and a growing merchant fleet, but we don’t have a dedicated coastguard,” she said.  “A big country like this and we still don’t have all the authorities in place to take care of our sea routes.”

The government mandated to establish the Indonesian coast guard in 2008.  But according to Siswanto Rusdi, director of the National Maritime Institute the Transportation Ministry was “hampered by conflicting interests among agencies already assuming coast guard tasks.”

The Navy, Police, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry and the Finance Ministry (customs), The Indonesian Sea and Coast Guard Agency and most recently the Maritime Security Agency (BAKAMLA) all conduct coast guard functions involving law enforcement at sea.

Baklama’s head is facing corruption charges and maritime regulation remains crippled,  by 18 competing authorities with entrenched interests.

“It is a sea full of government patrol boats with overlapping missions,” Rusdi said. “A nightmare. Agencies launch multiple interdictions at their vessels, settled by paying some money to patrol boat commanding officers.”

Hartoto declined to comment on the issue of corruption, when asked by SAS.  However, she did stress the delays caused by multiple inspections by multiple agencies at sea was costly.

“It wastes our time,” she said.  “Our ships get stopped in the middle of the ocean all the time and that is wasting fuel and time.”

In November, INSA signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Indonesian Armed Forces  (TNI).  Hartoto asked TNI commander Hadi Tjahjanto  to help solve the problem and provide security for Indonesian shipping.

“We are pushing for a new coast guard,” she said.  “Baklama didn’t really work.  So we have signed an agreement with the military command to take charge of the matter. We are asking there is just one, and only  one body with the authority to co-ordinate and carry out ship inspections or ship detentions and enforce the law at sea.”