Indonesia: Piracy is a myth, illegal fishing more pressing concern -- Official

Anggi M. Lubis The Jakarta Post 28 May 16;

Piracy in Southeast Asia is a myth that overlooks the real threats that haunt regional waters, an Indonesian bureaucrat has claimed. The real threats are illegal fishing and organized crime.

The perception that Southeast Asia is a pirate-invested region is shaped by, among other things, reports compiled by the International Maritime Bureau ( IMB ) on robberies or robbery attempts from vessels plying the region’s waters, says Arif Havas Oegroseno, a deputy for maritime sovereignty at the Office of the Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister.

Sea-related cases reported to the IMB — a Singapore-based unit of the International Chamber of Commerce ( ICC ) — are marked as piracy without relying on proper and specific definitions set by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea ( UNCLOS ), Havas said during a recent conference held by policy think tank the Habibie

By doing so, IMB confuses maritime awareness and that benefits insurance companies selling premiums to shipping companies operating in ASEAN waters, he said.

“IMB has been playing a dangerous game in floating international laws,” he said, adding that the government had been trying to discuss the issue with IMB, but to no avail.

UNCLOS defines piracy as “illegal acts of violence or detention for private ends by crew or passengers of private ships/aircraft directed against another ship/aircraft on the high seas or outside the jurisdiction of any state”. The region, however, only contains “high seas” at certain parts around the Indian and Pacific ocean and this in effect brings down the number of piracy cases to zero.

This contradicts IMB reports that have included — as an example — an engine-part robbery of an anchored ship on Central Java’s north coast, Havas said.

IMB, in it its 2015 annual report, lists Southeast Asia as the region with the most piracy cases, with 147 cases out of 246 cases worldwide. Indonesia contributed 147 cases.

These myths, Havas said, give cover to the real threats facing the region, such as illegal fishing and organized crime. The issue of illegal fishing also involves other types of crime such as human trafficking, slavery, gun-running and drug smuggling, he added.

“Perception is very important because perceptions dictate policy responses and how we should work on that,” Havas said.

“All these different criminal activities are immune from countermeasures because we do not have enough resources to get this guys.”

Joint patrols are conducted between Indonesia and other countries in the region such as Malaysia, Singapore and India, and while these patrols can address robbery issues, it is difficult to bring legal actions against sophisticated cases such as what happened in the Benjina slavery case that took place last year.

The case surprised the international community after an American news agency discovered a fishing company operating in Indonesian waters had enslaved hundreds of trafficked people — mostly from Myanmar. The firm was a joint venture that involved a company from the British Virgin Islands — known to host special purpose vehicle companies from other countries — thus making the case difficult to track down.

Havas said there was lack of cooperation in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing ( IUUF ) in the region. Illegal practices and overfishing may lead to the extinction of a number of fish species and billions of dollars in losses, he added.

Arie Afriansyah, an expert in maritime law from University of Indonesia, said the region should work together more closely to enhance cooperation in maritime security.

There are a number of challenges, but there are also opportunities that the countries in the region could benefit from, he claimed.

“If this bilateral cooperation works, it could serve as a network and it might lead to multilateral cooperation,” he said.

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