Indonesia seeks Interpol's help to find dredger

Foreign boats confiscated from poachers being destroyed near Medan on April 1. That day, 81 vessels were blown up and sunk to signal that the government is continuing its fight against illegal fishing in its waters.
Foreign boats confiscated from poachers being destroyed near Medan on April 1. That day, 81 vessels were blown up and sunk to signal that the government is continuing its fight against illegal fishing in its waters.PHOTO: REUTERS

China-flagged ship escapes after 20 crew members arrested for pillaging shipwreck

Jakarta is seeking Interpol's help to nab a Chinese dredger vessel that escaped after being stopped by the Indonesian navy on Thursday in waters off the Riau Islands, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti said.

The crew of the China-flagged MV Chuan Hong 68 was allegedly pillaging the shipwreck of Swedish supertanker Seven Skies, which sankbetween Jemaja and Repong islands in 1969.

The navy patrol had left the vessel anchored at the scene as it took back the crew for questioning onshore, but when a second warship arrived to secure the Chuan Hong, it was gone.

"We hope that for this huge vessel, we could get Interpol's assistance to help with the arrest. This was not a fishing boat, but a dredger boat," said Ms Susi.

The Jakarta Post said MV Chuan Hong 68 is a 8,352 gross ton vessel, 122m long and 32m wide.

The incident was revealed at Ms Susi's meeting with reporters on Friday night at her home, where she was giving an update on Indonesia's enforcement action in its maritime territories.

The Jakarta Post reported Navy Deputy Chief of Staff, Vice-Admiral Achmad Taufiqoerrochman, saying that 20 of the vessel's crew - 16 of whom were Chinese nationals - were arrested.

He did not rule out that other crewmen may have been hiding on the vessel during the inspection and later escaped with the dredger.

Earlier this month, Indonesia announced it had destroyed 317 fishing boats confiscated from poachers since President Joko Widodo took office in October 2014.

Of these, 81 were blown up and sunk by the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries on April 1 to signal that the government is not letting up on its fight against illegal fishing in its territorial waters.

Most of the 317 fishing boats were from Vietnam (142), followed by the Philippines (76), Malaysia (49), and as far as Belize in Central America. One was from China.

Last year, Indonesia suffered annual losses of more than US$20 billion (S$28 billion) from poaching and illegal transhipment activities, according to Ms Susi's ministry.

The ministry said in a statement on Friday that enforcement action against unlawful incursions in Indonesian waters resulted in the arrest of 107 illegal fishing boats from Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam between January and April this year. "Illegal fishing is more rampant," Ms Susi said, adding that so far the number of such cases this year is higher than the same period last year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 23, 2017, with the headline 'Indonesia seeks Interpol's help to find dredger'. Print Edition | Subscribe