Tue, 14 Nov 2000

Indonesia's naval force below standard: Admiral

JAKARTA (JP): Indonesia could face serious security and defense problems in the next five years due to a shortage of warships and Navy personnel, Navy Chief Admiral Indroko Sastrowiryono said on Monday.

Speaking during a hearing with the House of Representatives' Commission I on defense, security and foreign affairs here, Indroko said the Navy currently only has 114 warships and 47,700 personnel, which is slightly below the minimum fleet required by a country with a vast sea territory like Indonesia.

"We actually need at least 132 warships of various types along with 52,000 personnel to be stationed at strategic positions to cover our sea territory," he said.

Ideally, Indroko added, Indonesia as an archipelagic country with 17,500 islands requires a strong Navy of some 600 warships, including several submarines.

The maritime area of Indonesia covers a enormous area of 7.9 million square kilometers.

According to the admiral, the only reason behind the size of the Navy's fleet was the limited state budget allocated for defense which on average ranges from between 1.4 percent and 1.7 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP).

In the recent 1999/2000 fiscal year, ending March 2000, the Navy received Rp 1.18 trillion (US$130 million), 10 percent of which (Rp 171,6 billion) was earmarked for maintenance costs.

Under the current (April-December) 2000 budget, the Navy received Rp 917.7 billion, including Rp 137.8 billion allocated for maintenance.

"The maintenance cost is too small because the Navy needs around Rp 2.5 trillion to maintain its 114 warships and other facilities," he said, citing that the minimum maintenance cost of a corvette can reach US$2,380 (Rp 16.6 million) per ton per year.

The admiral, therefore, called on the House to review the Navy's 2001 budget of Rp 1.3 trillion as this would not be adequate to cover its operational and maintenance costs.

"The budgeting should be based not on the number of personnel but on the Navy's proportional and real needs," he said.

He admitted that the Navy was in a difficult position as it faced an increasing contradiction between demands for an improvement in the role it plays and the limited budget it is allocated.

"The Navy will not be able to meet the increasing demand in its role to face possible threats both from outside and inside the country because it has only a limited force, both in the number of ships and that of personnel," he said.

"The other serious problem is that most ships are between 11 years and 30 years old. Of the 114 vessels, 47 are more than 30 years of age and 28 are between 21 years and 30 years old," he said.

He told the legislators that an aging fleet needed big money for its maintenance costs.

The suspension by several Western countries to supply military equipment, including spare-parts, to Indonesia have created another problem in maintaining the old ships, he said.

Indroko also urged the government to allow the Navy to repair its own fleet at the Navy homebase in East Java, for efficiency, instead of at the state-owned shipbuilding company PT PAL.

"Our service and repair shop has been handed over to PT PAL (since 1994) and we have paid much for our ships' repairs by the company," he said.

Indroko said the Navy was also facing financial difficulties in improving its personnel's social welfare.

"The Navy is only able to provide Rp 57,000, or 14 percent of the standard index, per person per year for health care and Rp 1,400 per person per day for training and recreation allowances.

And most personnel have to bring their own pocket money during their deployment in military and civic-work operations," he said. (rms)