Indonesia repatriates 5 Indonesian sailors, body of another who died on Chinese vessel

JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Foreign Ministry has repatriated five stranded Indonesian sailors and has recovered the body of another who died aboard a Chinese fishing vessel in November. They arrived in Galang Baru, Batam, in the Riau Islands province on Wednesday (Dec 30).

The repatriation process began after migrant worker staffing agency PT Puncak Jaya Samudera reported the death of an Indonesian crew member named Wendi Setia Pratama from an unspecified illness to the ministry's citizen protection directorate.

The company's director, Herman Suprayogi, said Wendi, who was 25 years old, had died on Nov 16 while the ship where he worked was in Omani waters.

"We needed to return his body to Indonesia because the Foreign Ministry has banned burials at sea as they are considered unethical in this country," Herman told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

He said that the company had planned to return Wendi's body by way of Oman but that the country would not accept the bodies of foreign citizens.

"Finally, we decided to ask for help from the Foreign Ministry and also to repatriate other crewmen whose contracts had expired," Herman said. Wendi's body will be autopsied at Bhayangkara Hospital in Batam, Riau Islands, to determine the cause of his death.

The five other sailors, 26-year-old Jeni Kamaluddin, 22-year-old Muhammad Abdal, 22-year-old Saiful Lukman, 29-year-old Rusdiana and 33-year-old Samfarid Fauzi were repatriated because their contracts to work aboard Chinese fishing vessels had expired.

They have undergone PCR tests and will be quarantined for five days in an Indonesian Migrant Worker Protection (PPMI) shelter in Batam.

Herman said it was the second time Indonesian seafarers had been repatriated through Batam, after 155 stranded sailors returned in April.

The Foreign Ministry said the six crew members had returned to the country aboard a vessel called the Hai Ji Li after being stranded for months in the Arabian Sea. The returnees worked on three different ships: Han Rong 369, Han Rong 361 and Han Rong 265.

The Ministry said it had communicated intensively with the Chinese government during the repatriation.

The recovery was difficult, the ministry noted, as many countries had closed their borders in response to the pandemic and would not allow crew members to change vessels in their ports.

The Indonesian government and the Chinese government also repatriated 157 sailors via Bitung, North Sulawesi, in November.