Indonesian Navy Ships Not Fit
to Fight (03 Jul 2002)
Most of the ships are not fully operational because of problems,
dealing a blow to its plan to combat piracy and smuggling
Jakarta - Indonesian navy chief Bernard Kent Sondakh has said
that the navy's 113 ships are fit to sail but not fight- a startling
revelation that throws into doubt its ability to crack down on
the rising piracy, smuggling and illegal-immigrant problems in
the sprawling archipelago.
A parliamentary hearing was told that most of the ships from
the Netherlands, the former East Germany, Yugoslavia, and from
the state-owned PT PAL shipyard were not fully operational because
of ageing engines and obsolete weapons.
Analysts, blaming budget constraints for the problem, said that
this made the navy's task of patrolling the country's 17,000 islands
The disclosure by Admiral Sondakh on Monday raises concerns among
neighboring countries given Indonesia's recent pledges to address
problems like smuggling and especially piracy jointly.
A trilateral pact between Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines
signed in May obliges them to monitor terrorism, smuggling, piracy,
hijacking, intrusion, illegal entry, drug trafficking, theft of
marine resources, marine pollution and illicit trafficking in
The Straits of Malacca, which separates the Malaysian peninsula
and the Indonesian archipelago, has always been a favourite haunt
of modern-day buccaneers, accounting for nearly three-quarters
of the world's pirate activity.
The Kuala-Lumpur-based International Maritime Bureau (IMB) recently
described Indonesian waters as the most pirate-infested in the
world. It recorded 22 separate pirate attacks during the first
three months of this year.
Indonesian navy officers said that anti-piracy efforts had actually
been stepped up this year but the navy cannot do more than required
because the ships are not up to mark.
A senior naval officer said that Only 30 per cent of the ships
are operational. We will never be able to fight a conventional
naval battle with another country. And it has reached a stage
where it is impeding efforts to root out problems like piracy.
Much of the problem lies in the age of the ships. A third of
the force's 113 ships are over 30 years old. Only eight of the
vessels are less than 10 years old.
The navy tried to address some of the problems a decade ago by
purchasing 30 ships form East Germany. But the decision backfired
when it was found most of the vessels required a massive overhaul.
Admiral Sondakh said that the aim was to upgrade these ships
- 16 Porchim-class corvettes together with 14 Frosch-class LST
troop carriers and nine condor class mine sweepers.
The military paradigm is changing in which the navy and air force
are going to play a bigger role in Indonesian national security.