The Indonesian Navy has seized 32 foreign ships in Papuan waters since the beginning of the month for crimes ranging from illegal fishing to the transportation of illegally harvested timber.
“Thirty-two ships have been captured and detained during the month by patrols coordinated at the main naval base in Jayapura [the capital of Papua Province]”, Navy spokesman First Adm. Iskandar Sitompul said.
Iskandar said that most were from Malaysia, the Philippines, China and Thailand. Most of the crew members were Indonesians, he said. He said that investigations had already been launched into all the cases and hoped that prosecutions would be filed in the near future. He said that the seized ships were being held at a number of naval bases, including Jayapura, and Sorong and Manokwari in West Papua.
Court cases relating to the seizure of 25 vessels last year were still ongoing, with the owners of 21 of the vessels filing appeals with the Supreme Court, Iskander said. For example, the MV Golden Blessing is waiting for re-evaluation of its case by the Supreme Court.
Another vessel, the Siong-siong Hai-05099, would be auctioned off if its owners and crew members were found guilty of breaking the law, Iskandar said.
The Navy’s deputy chief, Vice Adm. Moekhlas Siddik, earlier said that in 2008 the Navy successfully prosecuted the operators of 100 domestic and foreign vessels. During the year, Navy patrols inspected 1,869 ships, and of those, 521 were seized for alleged violations of Indonesian law, he said.
Indonesia is facing a host of unsolved maritime problems including rampant illegal fishing and the environmental damage from the dumping of toxic waste.
Based on a 2007 report from the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in Indonesian waters costs the state $2 billion each year.
Iskandar said not all the crimes were related to illegal fishing or logging. Some were associated with illegal mining.
According to the ministry’s 2007 report, an estimated 1.8 billion cubic meters of granite and sand worth Rp 105 trillion ($9.45 billion), was illegally exported to Singapore between 1966 and 2005. Authorities in many parts of Riau Islands Province say that the trade has caused significant environmental damage in the region.
In 2003, the maritime ministry issued a ban on exporting sand mined from Indonesian waters. In 2007, the Ministry of Trade banned the export of sand mined on land. A limited number of permits have been issued for the export of granite, but Iskandar said the Navy often found foreign-flagged vessels carrying granite without any such permits. In 2007, the Navy seized 21 foreign vessels, loaded with illegally mined granite and sand from Indonesia, he said.
Source: The Jakarta Globe, January 19, 2009 By Markus Junianto Sihaloho