Indonesia's Naval Command and Staff College (Seskoal) participated in a security conference in Manila on Aug. 16-17 to discuss expanding security cooperation and maritime resilience in Southeast Asia. (Antara Photo/Akbar Nugroho Gumay)

Indonesia Reopens Pirate-Infested Sulu Sea Route for Larger Cargo Ships


OCTOBER 29, 2016

Jakarta. The government revoked a ban for Indonesian cargo ships with gross tonnage above 500 tonnes from making voyage into Philippine waters on Friday (28/10), allowing some businesses to resume trade on the pirate-infested route.

But the government decided to keep its ban on tugboats and barges on the route, since the smaller vessels are easier to be hijacked compared to the larger-sized boats, Tonny Boediono, the director general of sea transportation at the Transportation Ministry, said.

"They are slower and have a lower hull. Pirates can easily climb into these ships," Tonny said.

Indonesia bans all of its ships from sailing into Philippine waters in June, after Abu Sayyaf pirates kidnapped seven of its seamen for ransom and kept them hostage in their base in the Southern Philippines.

The Philippine and Indonesian governments have agreed to increase patrol in the Sulu Sea last week, in the hope to allow safer journey for its sailors.

The ban has severely disturbed coal supply to the Philippines, which sourced most of the commodity from nearby Kalimantan.

Carmelita Hartoto, the deputy chairman for transportation at the Indonesian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Kadin), welcomed the government's decision.

"It's a good decision because large ships are harder to hijack and usually they do not go through the areas where the pirates operate," Carmelita said.

Still, she called on both governments to run an escort operation for barges and tugboats in the Sulu Sea to reopen vital trade links in the area.