Indonesia will host the Asia-Pacific regional conference, held by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), and naval crime will be the focus of the discussion.
The conference is scheduled to last four days, and according to Chairman of the ITF’s Asia-Pacific region, Hanafi Rustandi, the subject is so important that it has attracted the attention of the Indonesian Military and other law enforcement agencies. The hope is that this wide participation will help draw attention to the very serious problem of piracy within Indonesia’s territorial waters, and more generally throughout the region.
Rustandi explained that “Armed robberies have been on the rise in Indonesia’s ports while piracy has been increasing on the Malacca straits, the South China Sea and Somalian waters in the past few years. Several Indonesian cargo and fishing vessels, including their crew members, have been hijacked and released after paying ransoms.”
Indonesia also plans to put somewhat related issues of illegal fishing and cabotage rights on the agenda. Rustandi claims that both of these have a very negative impact on Indonesian mariners.
Cabotage refers to the practice of allowing foreign vessels to operate solely within the territorial waters of a single country other the vessel’s country of origin. While cabotage principles can stimulate an economy through encouraging an open market, if left too unregulated, they can be harmful.
“There have been far too many incidents involving seafarers and ships because of relaxed legislation. The time has come to look at the issue to invigorate the role of national administrations in the region and to make harsh rules for operators that have benefited from the fragmentation of the market to circumnavigate the existing regulation and lower the standards of ships and seafarer’s employment,” said Hanafi
The decreased cabotage regulation can run local sea faring businesses into the ground, and even be a public safety issue, as foreign vessels do not always adhere to the national safety regulations of the country they operate in.
Fabricio Barcellona, senior secretary to the ITF highlighted the importance of the conference for the many ITF affiliates in attendance. The collective membership of these affiliates accounts for nearly half of the mariners and fishing operations on Indonesia’s worldwide fleet. These fisherman are facing much uncertainty, as the economic downturn greatly affected the availability of jobs in their industry.
The ITF claims that although piracy in local waters and the greater Indian Ocean is far from being eradicated, there has been recent progress made. The ITF and the general maritime industry overall have committed to forming a joint-campaign that will make stopping piracy a primary focus. This new partnership will look to increase the economic situation in the region by stopping the great threat pirates pose to a developing economy.
Secretary of ITF’s seafarers and fisheries section shared his opinion on the cooperative efforts: “The Naval forces patrolling the area, in spite of the limited availability of ships and resources, have been exceptionally efficient to limit the attacks and the establishment of a joint Naval Forces and Maritime Industry Committee, and, in my opinion, has resulted in a better coordination and exchange of information, which ultimately has improved the entire situation in the area.”
The future of the waters of Southeast Asia depends heavily on such cooperation. No one agency is nearly powerful enough to stop the increasing scope and complexity of pirate attacks, and the maritime economy will have a difficult time moving forward unless they cease.