By Arab News
By Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata
Indonesia said on Monday it would be investigating Iranian and Panamanian tankers it had seized over suspicion of illegally transferring oil in its waters.
Indonesia’s Maritime Security Agency (Bakamla) on Sunday held the two tankers in waters bordering the South China Sea off Pontianak, the provincial capital of West Kalimantan province on the island of Borneo.
“We will launch an investigation involving several agencies and ministries including the energy and mineral resources ministry because this is about oil, the environment ministry in regard to the oil spill, foreign ministry, and the transport ministry,” Bakamla spokesman, Col. Wisnu Pramadita, told Arab News on Monday.
The agencies will probe the tankers and their crew members on a number of alleged violations, which include violating their rights for innocent passage on the Indonesian sea lane, turning off their ships’ identification systems, transferring fuel ship-to-ship illegally, anchoring illegally, spilling oil, and not flying their national flags.
Bakamla said in a statement on Sunday that its ship KN Marore-322, which was on a regular patrol, detected at 5.30 a.m. Jakarta time on its radar an idle signal, which indicated that a ship’s automatic identification system was turned off.
“The KN Marore-322 proceeded to the location to inspect the situation and at 6 a.m. had a visual that two tanker vessels were apparently conducting a ship-to-ship fuel transfer illegally and deliberately covered the hulls to conceal their identities,” Pramadita said.
The Bakamla personnel suspicions grew when they received no response from either the Iranian-flagged MT Horse or the Panamanian-flagged MT Frea.
“Upon inspection, they were caught red-handed in the process of an illegal ship-to-ship fuel transfer from MT Horse to MT Frea with the hoses connected between the two tankers,” Pramadita added.
The two tankers are now on their way to a Bakamla base in Batam of Riau Islands province, about a one-day sail, while all crew members from the two tankers – 25 Chinese nationals on MT Frea and 36 Iranian nationals on MT Horse – have been detained, Pramadita added.