Indonesian police detain captain and crew of boat stalled off Pedra Branca for smuggling

The boat ran out of fuel at sea on April 19, 2018, and was detected in Singapore territorial waters off Pedra Branca by Singapore's Maritime Security Task Force. PHOTO: RIAU ISLANDS PROVINCIAL POLICE

JAKARTA - Indonesian police have detained the captain and four crew members of a boat for smuggling more than 100 illegal migrant workers and their family members home from Malaysia, and plan to prosecute them.

The vessel ran out of fuel at sea early on Thursday (April 19) morning and was detected in Singapore territorial waters off Pedra Branca by Singapore's Maritime Security Task Force. Singapore authorities later handed the boat and passengers over to Indonesia's marine police which ferried them to Batam.

Colonel Benyamin Sapta, director of maritime police for Riau Islands province, said on Friday (April 20) that the five men had also breached Indonesia's shipping law for sailing without a permit from a sea port. They face up to five years in jail and a fine of up to 600 million rupiah (S$57,000), he noted.

The captain was identifed as Hoatong alias Athong, and his crew as Andi Rimba Trimalma, Muhammad Yunus alias Yunus, Zainal and Yudi Ramdani.

Singapore's Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) had, a day earlier, announced it rescued four Indonesians after they jumped from a stalled motorised boat in the wee hours of Thursday. It also said one person was unaccounted for, and according to those rescued, there were 108 people on board.

But Col Benyamin said there were 106 persons on board, including the five crew members. There were 22 women, two of them pregnant, and four children, aboard.

The migrant workers, many of whom were from Lombok, will be handed to the Indonesian agency in charge of protecting migrant workers. They had either expired passports or no documents at all.

Col Benyamin said investigations found the boat engine was running for two hours before it ran out of fuel. He added that the four who jumped off the boat were the crewmen who feared arrest.

"It is usually a two-hour journey from the point they left in Malaysia to their destination, but perhaps because of the currents and the captain not knowing where he was going, the boat drifted," Mr Irwanto Suhaili, a senior official at the Batam immigration office, told reporters. He said his office will photograph and fingerprint all the passengers who did not have passports.

"We are investigating how they arrived in Malaysia. Many of them might have entered Malaysia on a tourist visa, overstayed and continued working. They threw away their passports," he added.

The authorities are also trying to track down the syndicate involved, including those meant to receive the passengers in Batam had the boat not lost its way.

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