Indonesia experiences 3 ship disasters in one week – 8 dead and 25 missing

Passenger vessel KM Santika. Credit: Husni/Marine Traffic

A ferry on fire, a machete-wielding crew, and a disappearing shipload of nickel have made headlines in Indonesia in the past week.

Passenger vessel KM Santika caught fire on the evening of 22 August near Madura en route from Surabaya, Java, to Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, carrying more than 300 people. Three bodies have been recovered and 293 people have been rescued, including 10 injured.

However, a National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) spokesperson said that the number of passengers evacuated from the ro-ro did not tally with the ship’s manifest.

Only 111 passengers, including six children and five babies, were listed as on board.

“The number of passengers on the manifest does not match the number of survivors that we’ve found,” the spokesperson, Yusuf Latif, told local media. “We have to find out how many passengers were actually on board the ship before we can calculate how many are still missing.”

Meanwhile, authorities report they have lost contact with a bulk carrier loaded with nickel.

The 30,089 gross tonne MV Nur Allya and its 25 crew disappeared on route to central Sulawesi on 20 August near Buru island, Maluku.

“We still don’t know for sure what has happened to the vessel,” the head of search and rescue in Ambon Muslimin told local media.

It is believed that MV Nur Allya may have been hijacked, which would have made it the second ship to have been hijacked in a week after crew on board KM Mina Sejati were reported to have commandeered the vessel on 18 August. However, the Indonesian Navy subsequently reported that KM Mina Sejati, a fishing vessel, was not hijacked but that a fight had developed between the crew on board.

Three crew seized the vessel in Dobo Sea, near Aru Island, also in the Maluku region, after murdering five crew mates with machetes and injuring several others.

Most of the 36 crew were asleep at about 10:00 local time when they were set upon after an evening shift fishing, survivors reported.

“Several crew died instantly in their sleep and others died after succumbing to stab wounds,” said commander of Aru Island Navy base, Lieutenant Colonel Suharto Silaban.

Most, including the captain, jumped overboard to escape. However, two died of their wounds while attempting to swim to the safety of nearby vessels, bringing the death toll to seven. Twenty-three crew, including the three alleged killers, are still missing.

Navy spokesperson First Admiral Mohammad Zaenal said the motive behind the attack was still unknown and difficult to determine.

Basarnas has been contacted for comment.