Indonesian, Vietnamese vessels get into skirmish in Natuna waters over illegal fishing

JAKARTA (The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network) - Indonesian authorities released five Vietnamese vessels involved in illegal fishing after a patrol boat and two naval ships belonging to the neighbouring country interfered in the operation in Natuna waters in the Riau Islands on Sunday (May 21), an official has confirmed.

"That's true, we will give more details in a media conference tomorrow," Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry's director general of oceanic and fisheries resources surveillance (PSDKP) Eko Djalmo told The Jakarta Post on Monday (May 22).

The PSDKP reportedly seized on Sunday morning five foreign fishing vessels flying Vietnamese flags that were equipped with gill nets, fishing equipment and 55 crew members.

When the PSDKP prepared to escort the vessels to its Batam base for processing, a Vietnamese patrol boat appeared. The patrol boat reportedly intercepted and rammed into one of the fishing vessels, which subsequently sank.

The Vietnamese patrol boat crew also reportedly apprehended a PSDKP crew member and asked that the fishing vessels and crews be released.

Tension escalated in the afternoon when two Vietnamese navy ships arrived in Natuna waters.

Later in the afternoon, PSDKP patrol vessels returned to base without the seized vessels.