Indonesia Challenges Allegations about Navy Taking Money to Release Detained Foreign Ships

Indonesia Challenges Allegations about Navy Taking Money to Release Detained Foreign Ships.lelemuku.com.jpg

JAKARTA, LELEMUKU.COM - Indonesian Navy leaders on Monday defended the military branch against allegations in a news report that officers took payoffs to release foreign ships, which were detained for docking without permission in the nation’s territorial waters near Singapore.

Citing anonymous sources, Reuters reported on Sunday that more than a dozen owners had made payments of about U.S. $300,000 (4.2 billion rupiah) each to release ships held by the Indonesian Navy in waters near Singapore. The newswire service said it could not independently confirm that payments were made to naval officers or establish who had received the money.

Rear Adm. Arsyad Abdullah, commander of Naval Fleet 1, called the allegation “serious” and said it could tarnish the reputation of the navy in Southeast Asia’s largest country.

“It’s not true that the Indonesian Navy received or requested payments to release the ships,” Abdullah said in a statement. “As for the ship owner who paid between $250,000 and $300,000 as reported, the Navy never received such money.”

About 30 ships, including tankers and cargo, have been detained by the Indonesian Navy in the past three months – most have been released after making the payments, according to two ship owners and two maritime security sources interviewed by Reuters.

It said it interviewed dozens of people including ship owners, crew and marine security sources, who said payments were made directly to Navy officers or by bank transfer to intermediaries representing the Navy. Reuters also alleged that ship captains and crews were held in cramped spaces for weeks until owners made payments.

Adm. Yudo Margono, the Navy’s chief of staff, said military personnel drove out or arrested foreign ships that deliberately dropped anchors in Indonesian waters without permission when they were lining up to enter the Singapore port.

“We’ve chased away many of them. Those that carried out illegal activities must be processed according to the law,” Yudo told reporters on Monday.

Nevertheless, Yudo said, the Navy would look into the allegations of illegal payments.

“If there are rumors like that, please provide evidence. Who are the recipients? Don’t just spread unconfirmed rumors,” Yudo said. “If they are Navy officers, their ranks, names and where they work should be made clear.”

Unclear boundaries

In 2014, Indonesia and Singapore reached an agreement on maritime boundaries on the eastern side of the Strait of Singapore, one of the busiest waterways in Asia.

Despite the agreement, Siswanto Rusdi, a researcher at the National Maritime Institute (Namarin), an independent think-tank, said violations committed by foreign ships in Indonesian waters were often unintended because of unclear boundaries.

“Where to drop anchors is unclear and our electronic navigational chart technology has never been updated,” Siswanto told BenarNews.

“Sea boundaries are imaginary, unlike those on land. Foreign ships of course need clear guidance. It could be the case that a ship dropped its anchor in Singapore waters, but its tail was in Indonesian waters,” Siswanto said.

In September, an Indonesian court sentenced the captain of the Bahamas-flagged M.T. Strovolos oil tanker to 15 days in jail for anchoring his ship in local waters without permission. The ship was carrying nearly 300,000 barrels of crude oil which, Cambodia alleged, was stolen by its crew.

The Indonesian Navy said the 600-foot Strovolos was illegally anchored off Sumatra Island, with its identification system turned off, when authorities seized it on July 27, three days after Phnom Penh issued an Interpol red notice about the ship.

Rear Adm. Abdullah said the Navy had arrested crews suspected of anchoring their ships illegally in Indonesian waters around the Riau Islands province near Singapore in line with the Transportation Ministry regulation. (Ronna Nirmala|BenarNews)

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