Indonesian navy holds vessel, crew for alleged smuggling

Suspects on S'pore-flagged craft accused of bringing in used household goods

The Indonesian navy has detained a Singapore-flagged vessel as well as its captain and a crew of 12 for allegedly smuggling used television sets, refrigerators and other household items from the city state.

The 835-ton Toll Emperor landing craft tank was stopped in Tanjung Pinggir waters just off Batam island in the Riau Islands province in the early hours of Sunday, said the navy yesterday.

According to the navy, the vessel, also referred to as Emperor, is registered under Toll Logistics Asia, a logistics firm based in Singapore.

Naval commander S. Irawan, who is based in Tanjung Pinang, the Riau Islands' provincial capital on Bintan island, told reporters that navy officers on board a quick-response patrol craft spotted several smaller boats approaching the larger vessel.

The crew of the Toll Emperor were observed to have unloaded goods onto the smaller boats in open sea before the ship sailed towards the Sekupang seaport in Batam, said First Admiral Irawan.

"We have detained the crew because they brought in used goods without permits," said the admiral.

"We have since notified Singapore about this arrest and are now investigating the crew."

The Emperor departed Jurong Port in Singapore on Saturday, and preliminary investigations by the Indonesians showed that the vessel did not have the required travelling documents and its captain, identified as Adrian Esra, also did not possess a valid piloting licence.

The goods carried by the vessel and seized during the arrests were also not logged in the shipping manifest, said First Admiral Irawan.

Sunday's arrest comes as Indonesia increases sea patrols - primarily targeting illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing - after President Joko Widodo last year announced plans to beef up the country's fisheries sector.

Recent arrests in Indonesian waters involving Singaporeans or Singapore-flagged vessels include fishing boats MV Selin and the Seven Seas Conqueress, both piloted by Singaporean captains.

MV Selin captain Shoo Chiau Huat was ferrying seven Singaporean and six Malaysian recreational anglers near Tanjung Berakit when he was arrested in April.

His case was followed by a similar incident in August when the Malaysia-flagged Seven Seas Conqueress, which was piloted by boat captain Ricky Tan Poh Hui, was detained while it was in waters near Bintan.

Mr Shoo and Mr Tan are in the custody of the Indonesian authorities pending their court hearings.

The authorities have refused to release Mr Shoo despite a court clearing him in July of a trespassing charge. He has since been charged with a fresh immigration offence.

His case will come up again today in a local district court in Tanjung Pinang where the prosecution will make its arguments before the judges issue their ruling a week later on Oct 25.

Last year, two Singapore vessels were detained by the Indonesian Transport Ministry. They allegedly had no permits when they were piloting a tanker travelling through Indonesian waters in the Malacca Strait. These vessels have been released.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 18, 2016, with the headline 'Indonesian navy holds vessel, crew for alleged smuggling'. Print Edition | Subscribe