World

Illegal foreign vessels
still serve big oil in
Indonesia: Govt

While many legal, qualified Indonesian vessels are eager to support oil rigs across the archipelago, illegal foreign ships are still operating within Indonesian waters.

The latest case of illegal foreign ships involves two Singapore-owned accommodation work barges serving oil rigs belonging to Chevron Pacific Indonesia, a local branch of US energy giant Chevron Corporation, operating at West
Seno in the Makassar Strait, East Kalimantan.

The vessels, sometimes called floating hotels, provide accommodations and food for the oil rig crew at sea.

“The ships are illegal because they don’t have permits to operate in Indonesia. We have instructed Chevron to stop the vessels’ operation and send them out of [Indonesian waters],” Transportation Ministry director of sea traffic and transportation Leon Muhamad said on Thursday.

He said he would meet again with the operators of the illegal vessels and Chevron next week.

The Transportation Ministry told the vessel’s operator, PT Baruna Raya Logistik, that the permit used by their barges were fake and they had been operating in Indonesia illegally, in a letter dated Dec. 3, a copy of which was obtained by The Jakarta Post.

Chevron, the largest oil producer in Indonesia, contributing around 40 percent to the country’s crude oil production, also received a letter from the ministry, dated Dec. 18, in which the ministry identified vessels Workover Barge FF-1 and Workover Barge SS-1 as operating illegally at their oil rigs and should be cleared from Indonesian waters.

Despite the letters, Chevron confirmed that the illegal vessels were still operating at their rigs, saying that it needed time to process replacement vessels.

“We are in the process of replacing both barges. We have evaluated offers from vessel owners. We will prioritize Indonesian owners,” Chevron official Syarif Martakusumah said.

The vessels are only two of the 11 ships that were illegally serving a number of big oil companies operating in Indonesia.

On Oct. 11 last year, the Balikpapan port officials found that 11 foreign vessels used fake permits to operate in Indonesia. The ships’ documents dated Dec. 18 forged signatures of the Transportation Ministry’s high ranking officials.

Nine of the 11 illegal vessels left the country’s waters in November after the Transportation Ministry ordered them to do so.

However, due to the remote location of West Seno — approximately 40 hours of travel from Balikpapan — the two vessels could continue to operate outside of the government’s watch.

Local ship owners have expressed readiness to fill the void left by the foreign ships, saying that they have qualifications matching the foreign barges’ and their placement wouldn’t affect the country’s oil lifting, as feared by a number of officials.

Local ship companies have long complained that they had not had a fair opportunity to serve the giant oil companies.

More than 90 percent the ships operating in Indonesia are foreign-flagged carriers.

BP Migas chief R. Priyono has warned that the bidding for the replacements of the nine vessels should be done in accordance to the law, avoiding direct appointments.

Meanwhile, National Police headquarters said it was now investigating the case of falsified documents involving the 11 vessels.

Police have said that while operating illegally in Indonesia, the foreign vessels also used subsidized fuel, paid for by tax-payers’ money, resulting in the loss of state money.

Officers have said that the owners of the ships have violated law on sailing, the Criminal Code, Tax Law and Immigration Law.

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