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Indonesia Makes Moves to Create a Formal Coast Guard Agency

Baklama
Baklama's flagship, the cutter Tanjung Datu. Though prominently labeled "Indonesia Coast Guard," Baklama does not yet hold that statutory title (Indonesian government file image)

Published Jul 5, 2023 7:57 PM by The Maritime Executive

The government of Indonesia is making plans to create a new coast guard agency to take on and augment the capabilities of its existing Maritime Security Agency (Baklama).

Baklama was set up by Indonesian President Joko Widodo in 2014 with the mission of formalizing the role of a loosely-coordinated security agency that preceded it. In 2022, it was strengthened and given authority as the coordinating agency for all maritime law enforcement in Indonesia. It was also tasked with formulating the nation's maritime security strategy. 

However, the government stopped short of integrating it with competing agencies, of which there are many. Indonesia's transport ministry has a shipping safety service, the Indonesian Sea and Coast Guard Unit (KPLP), which handles regulatory functions for ports and shipping. The Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries has a marine resource protection role. The Indonesian Navy conducts its own maritime border patrols. And the Indonesian National Police has its own marine unit, Sat-Polair, which has duties comparable to Baklama's. 

With so many agencies pursuing the same mission set, responsibilities and capabilities for maritime security are diffuse, and the Widodo administration hopes to unify them under one banner. President Widodo has previously expressed the hope that "Baklama will be the embryo of an Indonesian coast guard," and this is the agency's aspiration too: it already refers to itself as the "Indonesia Coast Guard," though this name does not yet exist in statute. 

This goal is still some ways off yet, according to Aristyo Rizka Darmawan, a maritime policy researcher at University of Indonesia. As currently structured, Baklama has to draw on the vessels and personnel of other Indonesian agencies to carry out its mission. "Baklama should be staffed by personnel separate from the other law enforcement institutions, with these personnel having specific coast guard training and qualifications," wrote Darmawan in 2020. "Currently it is comprised of a mix of civilian and military officials drawn from other institutions, such as the navy and police."  

During a seminar in Jakarta on Wednesday, Chief Security Minister Mohamad Mahmud MD told reporters that Widodo has finally issued a formal directive for the creation of an Indonesian Coast Guard. The new coast guard agency will be tasked with maritime border security, counter-smuggling and domestic maritime law enforcement. Baklama is involved in its creation, director Aan Kurnia confirmed to the Jakarta Globe.