Fri, 03 Jan 2003

Navy seizes tanker over waste disposal

Haidir Anwar Tanjung, The Jakarta Post, Pekanbaru

A Honduras-flagged tanker hired by Malaysia's Toa Corporation was seized by an Indonesian naval patrol on Thursday after it allegedly disposed of about 7,000 cubic meters of waste in the waters off Asen island, north of the Tanjung Balai Karimun islands in Riau province.

The case was handed over to the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.

"We arrested them without violence," said the chief of the Western Naval Fleet, Commodore Tedjo Adhi, here on Thursday.

The Tsuru 50 was seized in an operation led by the chief of the Tanjung Balai Karimun Naval Base, Maj. Purwanto, after receiving information from local fishermen.

The fishermen told the authorities that for the past three months they had been unable to catch fish. They said they placed their nets in the water in the afternoon, but could not find them the following morning.

The fishermen added that the water in the area was dark and polluted.

While investigating the matter, the fishermen spied large ships traveling around the area and spotted three tankers disposing of waste in the water.

With further investigation, the fishermen learned that the ships disposed of the waste once every two days.

The fishermen then reported their findings to the Tanjung Balai Karimun Naval Base.

Commodore Tedjo said that besides the report from the fishermen, his team also received information from naval investigative officers.

"After receiving the information, we moved in and caught the Tsuru 50 disposing of waste in our waters," he said.

The ship captain and crew members said the vessel had been hired by the Toa Corporation of Malaysia. They claimed the muddy waste they were disposing of came from Tanjung Lepas in Malaysia, which is being excavated for the construction of a seaport.

The crew was not carrying the proper sailing licenses or passports.

"They just had a license to sail in Malaysian territory. They entered Indonesian territory without bringing the required documents with them," said Purwanto.

It was later learned that 15 of the 17 crew members are Indonesian citizens, while the other two are Japanese citizens.

Ship captain Yutaka Sirasawa, 34, claimed to be unaware he was dumping waste in Indonesian territory. He said the company had told him that the location was within Malaysian territory.

Yutaka added that the muddy waste was not harmful.

Purwanto, however, disagreed, saying Malaysia would dump the waste in its own territory if it was harmless.

A number of crew members said they had warned the ship captain not to dispose of the waste near Asen island because it was within Indonesian territory.

Some of the crewmen said they had dumped waste 20 times in November. They added that six ships had been hired for the excavation of Tanjung Lepas in Malaysia, three by the Toa Corporation.

"We have only seized one ship," Purwanto said.