Indonesia Jails and Fines Tanker Captain for Illegally Anchoring
Indonesian officials are confirming reports that a court on Batam ordered the captain of a crude oil tanker jailed and fined for illegally anchoring his vessel in Indonesian water south of the busy Singapore Strait shipping lanes. The detention of the captain and his vessel drew international attention after reports that navy officers were seeking payments to release the vessel.
Navy officials on Batam reported that the unnamed captain of the Nord Joy, a 49,874 dwt tanker registered in Panama, had been sentenced to 15 days in jail and a fine of $13,350 by the Batam District Court on July 7. Under the law, he had faced a maximum fine of $14,000 and up to one year in jail if found guilty of anchoring without an Indonesian permit.
The vessel was released and proceeded to an anchorage near Singapore and is currently docked in the Tanjung Uban after arriving from Malaysia. It is unclear if the captain was released with the vessel or if he is still serving prison time on Batam.
The incident began in late May when the empty tanker anchored south of the sea lane in what the captain and his shipping company said they believed were international waters. Four days later, they were boarded by members of the Indonesia Navy and the vessel was ordered to move to an anchorage near the Batam naval base for further investigation.
The Indonesia Navy confirms that it questioned the captain beginning on May 31 with a follow-up investigation on June 4. Officials contended that they were “carrying out law enforcement and also maintaining the safety of shipping navigation from security hazards, the threat of marine pollution, and other criminal acts that are detrimental to the state.”
A report carried by Reuters on June 9, alleged that officers from the Indonesian Navy were asking for payments of up to $375,000 to release tankers being detained for illegally anchoring near Batam. The report, which was a follow-up to a similar one in Lloyd’s List in November 2021, accused the officers of regularly seeking payments to release the vessels while threatening the vessels could be detained for a long court process. In 2021, Reuters reported a dozen similar incidents had taken place with tankers being held by the Indonesia Navy.
Senior officers of the Indonesian Navy responded calling the reports “completely unfounded,” saying that they had occurred repeatedly without anyone being able to provide evidence for the allegations that have been made. They said it was an attempt through the media to “discredit the Indonesian Navy as an institution that enforces sovereignty and law at sea.”
In reporting the outcome of the Nord Joy case, the spokesman said the suspect and evidence in the case were handed over to the Batam Court on June 17. They thanked the officials for moving quickly to investigate the case and bring it to a swift conclusion. They said it was hoped that it would have a deterrent effect on the perpetrators of shipping crimes.
The Singapore Strait has been repeatedly cited by independent monitoring agencies as one of the most dangerous places for shipping. Multiple vessels have reported being boarded both in the anchorages and while underway. The crimes mostly involve the theft of property and spare parts with the preparators seeking to avoid contact with the crew aboard the vessels and fleeing when they are discovered.