The difficulty of safeguarding Indonesia’s maritime wealth (Part 2 of 2)

Posted on April 13, 2011


iswono Yudhohusodo, Jakarta | Tue, 04/12/2011 10:30 AM | Opinion

It really goes without saying that what is important is effectiveness. Now maritime protection is handled by different institutions, so what is important to establish is coordination.

If later on a sea and coast guard unit is established, the other institutions will still have to guard our seas. Those illegal foreign fishing vessels use sophisticated technology. On average, the vessels weigh 100 GT or more and are very fast.

The Navy plays a strategic role as a deterrent to every foreign party intending to disturb our sovereignty, including illegal fishing vessels.

To this end, a powerful Navy is a must. Unfortunately, the Navy has only warships, many of which
are aging and are not battle ready. Ideally, we should operate 550 modern ships.

Tactically, to confront fishing vessels, we need boats similar to the Shark 36 and 42 meter, which are powerful and fast. Both models are made of fiberglass, which is light but easily damaged.

These Shark-class ships should each be armed with a 12.7 millimeter caliber gun and their crews armed with M-16 assault rifles and RPG launchers.

Considering that larger ships would be too expensive, these small and heavily armed boats would be sufficient to discourage illegal fishing vessels from entering our waters.

To deter potential violators of Indonesia’s waters, it would be effective if these small Shark boats shot at and destroyed illegal fishing vessels at sea.

The Navy’s large warships are small in number and therefore should serve as a deterrent.

Another major problem is that the sailors of Indonesia’s maritime safeguarding authorities are underpaid and therefore prone to corruption. There have been many stories about Indonesian sailors who took bribes from illegal fishing boats rather than impounding them.

Foreign fishing vessels seized at sea by Polairud, the Navy or the PSDKK should be legally processed and impounded by the state. They should then be auctioned off by the local prosecutor’s office.

However, these auctions are also prone to corruption. There was a story that a Thai vessel worth Rp 2 billion (US$230,000) was sold off for Rp 150 million.

In another case a very expensive China-flagged vessel was impounded and valued by an unknown appraiser at Rp 1 billion. The true value of the three-year-old vessel was estimated at Rp 13 billion, and should have fetched at least Rp 10-11 billion at the auction.

On average, impounded vessels auctioned by the state sell for about 10 percent of their true value,
and in many cases they are sold to the original owner — likely to return to Indonesian waters to steal fish once more.

I am of the opinion that it is preferable that illegal fishing ships seized and impounded by the state be handed over to local fishermen rather than auctioned off. In the meantime, it is better to accelerate the modernization of our fishermen’s vessels, especially by increasing their ranges.

This must be done to end the current irony where foreign fishing vessels are making a killing in Indonesia’s deep waters, while Indonesian fishermen hug the coastlines in their small boats attempting to scrape a living in over-fished waters.

Ultimately, the most effective way to safeguard our seas would be through our own fishermen.

Therefore it is important to upgrade our fishing fleet to vessels of 100 GT and higher. This would allow our fishermen to fish far from shore in the Executive Economic Zone.

Our seas hold the promise of prosperity for the people. However, this potential will never be realized without good governance and control.

The writer is chairman of the Pancasila University Foundation and member of the House of Representatives’ Commission IV overseeing forestry, agriculture and fisheries.