Over a dozen shipowners have paid approximately $300,000 to release ships that were held back by Indonesia’s naval forces. The latter had said that all these vessels were illegally anchored in Indonesian waters.
The dozens of sources included maritime security sources, owners of ships, crew members involved in the detentions. Payments were either made through cash to Indonesian naval officers or via a bank transfer involving intermediaries who claimed to represent the Indonesian navy.
Reuters, however, was not able to confirm whether the payments had been made to naval officers or find out who the ultimate recipients of these payments could have been.
The payments and detentions were reported first by Lloyd’s List Intelligence. Rear Admiral Arsyad Abdullah, the region’s Indonesian naval fleet commander, said in a published response to Reuters’ that no payments had ever been made toward the Indonesian navy. It also added that the country had involved not a single intermediary in any legal case.
He, however, agreed that there had been a rising number of ship detentions in the past three months. These were mostly because the ships would anchor sans a permit in the territorial waters of the country, swaying from their sailing route or halting mid-way for an extended periods. All detentions were made per Indonesian laws.
The Singapore Strait, one of the most crucial and busiest global waterways, is currently crowded with vessels waiting for weeks to dock at Singapore, where the pandemic has resulted in unprecedented delays.
For over years, ships kept anchoring in waters to the east of this strait while waiting to port. They believed that they were in international waters and not responsible to pay port fees, as reported by two ship owners and two other maritime analysts.
The Indonesian navy says that the area falls within their country’s territorial waters and ships cannot anchor in the zone without any license.
The captains of ships and even crew members are at ties detained in sweltering rooms for weeks until ship owners arranged cash to be transferred via bank or delivered through an intermediary employed at the navy, some detained crew members reportedly informed.