The Jakarta Post
Indonesia took a giant leap in promoting maritime safety in its waters when it launched the Non-Convention Vessel Standard, known in the shipping industry by its acronym NCVS, on Dec. 12 last year.
With more than 17,000 islands straddling the equator, Indonesia relies primarily on sea transportation to move people and goods. In November 2011, over 51,000 non-convention vessels, with gross tonnage (GT) of less than 500, were officially registered in Indonesia.
Maritime safety is imperative and the new standard, the result of landmark collaboration between Indonesia and Australia, is timely and critical to support the achievement of safe, secure and efficient shipping on clean oceans of Indonesia.
The NCVS is supplementary to the International Convention on the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) to which Indonesia is a party after ratifying it in 1980. The treaty only regulates ships of over 500 GT on international voyages. Domestic ships sailing in Indonesian waters are regarded as 'non-convention' and are, therefore, not obliged to follow SOLAS rules.
The responsibility for the safety for these non-convention vessels falls into the hands of the flag state. Under the 2008 Shipping Law, the Directorate General of Sea Transportation (DGST) bears the responsibility for developing and implementing maritime standards of safety and security.
In January 2008, Indonesia and Australia signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on cooperation in the transportation sector to improve Indonesia's transportation safety. Four years later, the DGST and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) came out with the NCVS, which replaced an outdated and dysfunctional collection of regulations dating back to colonial times.
The two institutions provide a comprehensive and practical standard for Indonesian flagged ships that will improve the safety, security and efficiency of shipping operations.
The team from the two governments developed the NCVS from first principles, using models from around the world and engaging extensively with government and industry stakeholders.
The main NCVS received the approval of the transportation minister in September 2009 and, after a national program of consultation, familiarization, field testing and inputs from stakeholders, the Technical Guidelines for NCVS Implementation were approved in February 2012.
The NCVS is a living document and its provisions are mandatory for all new non-convention commercial vessels and will also be applied progressively on existing vessels. These include all passenger vessels on domestic voyages; all cargo vessels on domestic voyages; cargo vessels less than 500 GT on international voyages; and all vessels that have been upgraded in service (for example, when a cargo vessel is upgraded to a passenger ship) on domestic voyages.
The Indonesian NCVS is not substandard to SOLAS, neither is it a mini version of SOLAS. It is an appropriate standard suitable to the sea and geographical conditions of Indonesia.
The standard will be enforced on existing vessels docking on or after Jan. 1, 2013, and on new vessels with keels laid on or after Jan. 1, 2014.
Implementation of the new standard should improve the culture of maritime safety, reducing the incidence of nautical accidents caused by human and technical errors.
The standard will also be used as a reference for shipping industries, particularly on shipbuilding and the production of life-saving appliances. This should enhance the maritime industry's competitiveness and its increasing role in the development of local economies.
Growing competition in the shipping industry is evident not only in terms of the price of services, but also in the quality and wholeness of services, from storage to harbor and onboard facilities. Such services are related to the quality of equipment, infrastructure, human resources and the development of appropriate policy.
The NCVS arrives just as Indonesia, along with its neighbors in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), is promoting greater connectivity under the ASEAN Community, which will be launched at the end of 2015. Shipping activities, transporting people and goods, will significantly increase and Indonesia is well prepared to impose the maritime safety standards under the NCVS.
One particular ASEAN connectivity proposal seeks to connect mainland Southeast Asia and archipelagic regions through the provision of more roll-on/roll-off vessels serving routes including Dumai-Malaka, Belawan-Penang-Phuket and Bitung-General Santos-Davao. The NCVS is important as Indonesia plans to run ferry services between Bitung city in North Sulawesi and the Philippine cities of General Santos and Davao.
Indonesia is pushing for 'mutual recognition' of the different standards of non-convention ships within ASEAN instead of a 'harmonized system' as proposed by others.
The danger with this alternative is that ships sailing the waters around Kalimantan and Sulawesi could be subject to a different regulatory regime, something that Indonesia must not accept.
The mutual recognition arrangement is already proven to be effective in Mediterranean and Caribbean countries.
The ongoing implementation of the Indonesian NCVS will greatly support our national integrity, not least by providing a united maritime standard to vessels throughout the country.
The writers are members of the NCVS Team. The views expressed are personal.