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Jakarta Post

More thefts of sunken objects occur in Batam

  • Fadli

    The Jakarta Post

Batam   /   Mon, May 26, 2014   /  08:37 am

The theft of valuable objects salvaged from sunken vessels (BMKT) has occurred again in Riau Islands'€™ waters, with the Indonesian Navy arresting 10 divers allegedly trying to steal the precious objects recently.

Five of the divers were Vietnamese nationals, while five others were Indonesian.

Western Fleet Maritime Security Task Force (Guskamla) chief Cmdr. Harjo Susmoro told The Jakarta Post on Sunday that the group of people was nabbed by officers of the naval ship KRI Kala Hitam during a routine patrol on Tuesday evening in Karang Haliputan waters, Tanjung Pinang.

They allegedly used a motor boat to transport the precious items. Harjo said three of the Vietnamese divers were suffering from decompression sickness when they were intercepted by naval officers. They were later rushed to Tanjung Pinang Naval Hospital.

In the past year, Harjo said, the Navy had nabbed three groups of people who were trying to steal sunken objects in the area.

'€œMost of them pretended to be fishermen and most were Vietnamese nationals who worked hand-in-hand with Indonesians. The Vietnamese usually dive underwater to check the location of the shipwreck,'€ Harjo added.

Indonesia is home to 463 sunken vessels, eight of which are in Riau Islands since the province has long been known as trade route.

In March, as many as 3,680 pieces of earthenware were found when the Special Police for the Management of Coastal Areas and Small Islands (Polsus PWP3K) confiscated them from a group of divers off Numbing Island, also in
Riau Islands.

Thousands of valuable sunken objects sit idly in government warehouses. Maritime and Fisheries Resources Monitoring Task Force (PSDKP) director general Syahrin Abdurrahman called on the government to immediately auction off the valuable items so the proceeds could go to state coffers.

'€œSuch theft is rampant in Riau Islands waters because the sunken objects have both high economic and cultural value,'€ he continued.

'€œThere are millions of salvaged items stored in three Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry'€™s warehouses. We have asked the government to auction off the items and for the proceeds to beadded to state coffers, which can then be used in the interests of the nation and state,'€ said Syahrin.

He said his agency was facing difficulties in paying maintenance costs, adding that it would be appropriate to keep some of the items as samples, such as for research or as museum exhibits.

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