Pirate Attacks on the Rise in Indonesia: Report

A boat waits off Tanjung Priok Port in North Jakarta. (SP Photo/Ruht Semiono)
A boat waits off Tanjung Priok Port in North Jakarta. (SP Photo/Ruht Semiono)

Indonesian waters remain a hotbed for pirate attacks and petty theft, despite global drops in reported attacks on shipping vessels, a recent report revealed.

Worldwide, the total number of pirate attacks has fallen from 177 in the first half of 2012, to 138 in the first half of 2013, according to the research conducted by by the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau (IMB), while attacks in Indonesia have grown by 50 percent during the same period.

Of the 43 actual attacks reported in Indonesia in the first half of 2013, 35 of the ships were anchored, 4 were berthed, and 4 were steaming, the report said. Six of the 13 ports and anchorages which had three or more reported incidents were located in Indonesia, with the ports in Dumai and Belawan encountering the highest number of attacks with eight each.

“Incidents are scattered in location, however, the waters surrounding Riau are most at risk,” Boy Rafli Amar, spokesperson for the Indonesian National Police (POLRI), said.

Although the global trend in pirate attacks has been decreasing, experts warn it would be to ill-advised to compare the situation in Indonesia with the improved conditions in other countries.

“We can’t compare regions, each region is very individualistic and unique in the types of crimes which are committed,” Cyrus Mody, Assistant Director of IMB, said. “For example, in East Africa, boats are attacked when they are sailing on waters as far as 12 miles away from dock or even in international waters. Within Southeast Asia, most of the attacks occur on Indonesian anchorages.”

The report suggested piracy incidents in Indonesia are less alarming than those occurring in regions elsewhere, with knives being the common weapon of choice. From January to June 2013, seven victims were taken hostage in Indonesia, while attacks in Malaysia produced 16 hostages. In Africa, the differences are dramatic — 28 people were kidnapped and 15 hostages were captured in Nigeria, 31 in the Ivory Coast and 20 in Somalia.

“These incidents [in Indonesia] are low level opportunistic crimes — there are very few serious cases and most involve robbers,” commented Mody, when asked about the frequency of attacks around the archipelago.

In a recent incident, robbers boarded an anchored crude oil tanker in Dumai. According to the report, the robbers stole spare engine parts and escaped undetected.

The ship’s crew noticed the theft when they found bare foot prints near the ship’s store the next day.

Securing Indonesian waters

Mody suggested that a factor that could explain the increase in number of Indonesian attacks is the lack of law enforcement present in the waters. “What we have seen in previous years is that as policing reduces in a region, crimes tend to increase. When coast guards are deployed, the crimes reduce.”

Richard J Lino, the President Director of Pelindo II, the state-owned port operator in Indonesia, declined to comment on the issue when contacted by the Jakarta Globe, stating his belief that curbing piracy is the role responsibility of the police not the port operators.

Boy echoed Richard’s sentiments.

“When it comes to securing the seas, responsibility is equally shared between the National Police and the Navy [TNI AL],” Boy said. “The Navy and the National Police deploy patrols to monitor waters three times a day.”

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