© Reuters. File photo: Aerial view of ships along the coast of Singapore on July 9, 2017. REUTERS / Jorge Silva / File Photo
By Joe Brock
SINGAPORE (Reuters)-According to a source with direct knowledge of the case, more than a dozen shipowners paid approximately US$300,000 each to release vessels held by the Indonesian navy, which said they were illegally anchored near Singapore Indonesian waters.
More than a dozen sources, including shipowners, crews, and maritime security personnel, are involved in detention and payment. They said these payments were paid in cash to naval officers or through wire transfers to intermediaries serving them. They said they represent the Indonesian navy.
Reuters was unable to independently confirm that the payment was made to naval officers, nor was it able to determine the ultimate payee of the payment.
Industry website Lloyd’s List Intelligence reported the holdings and payments for the first time.
Rear Admiral Arsyad Abdullah, commander of the Indonesian naval fleet in the region, stated in a written response to Reuters’ questions that no payment was made to the navy and no intermediary was used in legal affairs.
Abdullah said: “The statement that the Indonesian Navy received or requested payment to release the ship is incorrect.”
He said that in the past three months, more and more ships have been detained for unauthorised berthing, off course or stopovers in Indonesian waters for unreasonable time. Abdullah said that all detentions are in compliance with Indonesian law.
The Singapore Strait is one of the busiest waterways in the world. Ships docking in Singapore for days or weeks are overcrowded. Singapore is a regional shipping center. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused long delays.
(Illustration: Singapore’s waterways are one of the busiest waterways in the world-https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/ce/mypmnkaewvr/SingaporeWaterways.png)
Two maritime analysts and two shipowners said that these ships had been anchored in the waters east of the strait for many years while waiting to arrive at the port. They believed that they were in international waters and were therefore not responsible for any port charges.
The Indonesian navy stated that the area belongs to its territorial waters and intends to attack ships anchored there without permission.
A spokesman for the Singapore Maritime and Port Authority declined to comment.
According to two shipowners and two sources, the Indonesian navy has seized about 30 ships in the past three months, including oil tankers, bulk carriers and pipelayers, most of which paid between 250,000 and 300,000. The dollar was released afterwards. Safety at sea. Implied.
The two shipowners stated that if they are idle for several months during the trial in the Indonesian courts, these payments will be cheaper than the possible loss of income from ships carrying valuable cargo such as oil or grain.
The crew of the two detained ships said that armed navy sailors boarded the warship and approached their ship, boarded and escorted the ship to the naval base on Batam or Bintan in the Indonesian archipelago in southern Singapore across the strait.
The two detained crew members said that the captain and crew are usually detained in cramped and stuffy rooms, sometimes for weeks, until the shipowner arranges for cash delivery or bank transfer to the intermediary navy.
Indonesian naval officer Abdullah said that the crew of the ship was not arrested.
“During the proceedings, all crew members were on board except for interrogation at the naval base. After the interrogation, they were sent back to the boat,” he said.
(Illustration: The path of a vessel docked near Singapore and then released by the Indonesian authorities-https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/ce/dwvkrezolpm/VesselPathfromIndonesia.png)
Stephen Askins, a London maritime lawyer who advised the owner of a ship detained in Indonesia, said that the navy has the right to protect its waters, but if the ship is detained, it should take some form Prosecution.
“With the Indonesian Navy appearing to seize ships for extortion of money, it is difficult to see how this kind of detention is legal,” Akins told Reuters in an email. He declined to disclose the details of the client.
Lieutenant Colonel La Ode Muhamad Holib, spokesman for the Indonesian Navy, told Reuters in a written response to a question from Reuters that due to insufficient evidence, some of the ships seized in the past three months have been acquitted.
Hollib said that five captains were indicted and the other two captains were sentenced to short-term imprisonment and fines of 100 million rupees (US$7,000) and 25 million rupees, respectively, but declined to disclose more details of the specific cases.
(1 USD = 14,240 rupees)