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Jakarta Post

The dilemma of Indonesia'€™s coast guard

  • Siswanto Rusdi

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, February 11, 2015   /  09:33 am

Law No. 32/2014 on maritime affairs was deliberated in the House of Representatives for more than two years and was passed days before the end of the 2009-2014 term. It is the '€œumbrella law'€ of the maritime realm.

A problem arises in chapter 58, which stipulates the establishment of the Maritime Security Board (Bakamla). Earlier, President Joko '€œJokowi'€ Widodo set up the body by issuing Presidential Regulation No. 178/2014 and officially introduced it in a Hari Nusantara (Archipelago Day) ceremony on Dec. 13, 2014.

However, a presidential regulation is not the proper basis for the purpose. Instead, the government should issue a Government Regulation (PP). Sources said a PP is being prepared by the Office of the Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister. Bakamla will carry out coast guard tasks like law enforcement at sea, maritime search and rescue operations and others.

Long before Bakamla existed, the government was mandated to establish the Indonesian coast guard by Law No. 17/2008 on shipping. The Transportation Ministry, as the leading ministry in respect of the law, tried to set it up but it was hampered by conflicting interests among agencies with authority at sea.

The ministry sent a series of PP drafts to then president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, but he did not sign them. The drafts were sent back to the ministry because some of the content reportedly contradicted the authority of other relevant agencies. The last draft even dropped the role of the Maritime Security Coordinating Board (Bakorkamla) as one of the constituent elements in the establishment of the Indonesian coast guard along with the ministry'€™s coast guard department.

Frustrated with the policy, Bakorkamla lobbied the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry. With the passing of Law No. 32/2014, Bakorkamla was transformed into Bakamla.

Indonesia has two agencies prepared to assume coast guard tasks: one is already operational and it is only a matter of time until the other follows suit. The Navy, the National Police, the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry, the Transportation Ministry and the Finance Ministry (customs department) at certain levels also conduct coast guard tasks that concern law enforcement at sea.

Therefore, the sea will be full of government patrol boats with overlapping missions. For the shipping players, the situation is a nightmare because the agencies launch multiple interdictions at their vessels, which may have to be settled by paying some money to patrol boat commanding officers. According to the Indonesia National Shipowners Association (INSA), the practice costs the industry Rp 7 trillion per year.

The Indonesian coast guard is being introduced to stop such practices. Unfortunately, the idea always collides with the vested interests of ministries. For them, there is no single agency at sea. Each ministry can carry out maritime patrols as long as they have a legal foundation to do so.

Additionally, the coast guard only deals with navigational safety while the security issues are handled by other institutions like the Navy, National Police or Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry.

Therefore, efforts to establish the Indonesian coast guard by President Jokowi must be supported. But he should firstly be fair. We want the President to give a big push to the Transportation Ministry to finalize the establishment of the Indonesian coast guard as demanded by Law No. 17/2008. Consequently, he needs to stop whatever preparatory actions are being done in setting up Bakamla.

The call is urgent since there are indications that Bakamla will be directed to be a more security heavy agency with military muscle, rather than just being a civilian institution. Those behind Bakamla still see problems at sea merely in the security perspective. Whereas the real, ignored problems include sub-standard vessels and ill-certified crews.

Several countries in the region have slowly transferred law enforcement at sea to their coast guard institutions. Malaysia is the best example, establishing the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency. Ideally, Indonesia must have its own coast guard institution.

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The writer is the director of the National Maritime Institute (NAMARIN)

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