By Mohammad Javdan

Indonesia studying case of Iranian ship independently 

February 1, 2021 - 15:14

On January 25, the Indonesian Coast Guard announced that it had seized two Iranian and Panamanian-flagged tankers in its territorial waters and intends to release both ships by the end of the week if there is no solid evidence. Now, it is a good opportunity to examine all the developments surrounding this event.

Following the Trump administration's illegal sanctions against Iran's shipping and oil industries and oil transfers, Iran's oil export process has been disrupted around the world. However, in the past, according to international custom, Iran rented giant tankers with the flags of different countries to transport oil and its products, and ships of different countries used the same rule to buy oil from Iranian oil terminals but after the escalation of oppressive sanctions, the process ran into serious problems.

Following these problems, various strategies were used to circumvent oil sanctions, one of the most widely used being the transfer oil from ships to ships and oil products to the buyer in the high seas. This method, of course, required equipment such as an oil pond, special equipment for inter-ship-to-ship transports, and the collection of contaminants from this transfer from sea level.

Until now, ship-to-ship exchanges in the high seas near Iran have had no problem other than identifying the buyer's ship and placing it on the sanctions list, meaning that the transfer was safe and secure but this type of oil export also faced problem after buyers' ships were sanctioned by the U.S.

Iran now uses a combination of different ways to circumvent its sanctions, but these measures are not always without problems. In the latest of these problems, while the Iranian ship and the buyer are transporting petroleum products, they encounter Indonesian naval patrols near the Indonesian island of Kalimantan.

The Indonesian Coast Guard, which spotted two giant objects on its radars, first made radio communications with the two ships, but due to the shutdown of their telecommunications equipment, Bakamla sent its KN Marore 322 ship to the site of the two ships.

At 6 p.m., as Lt. Col. Yuli Eko Prihartanto watches the two ships up close, he realizes that both ships covered their names and lowered the flags of their respective countries.

The incident, which took place 17 miles off the island of Kalimantan (the exact point of which can be seen from the map below), was clearly in Indonesian territorial waters, and the two ships, while having to continue their journey in accordance with the international bill of lading, anchored in this waterway and proceeded to transport petroleum products.

The Indonesian Coast Guard, abbreviated as "Bakamla", in a statement announced illegal anchoring in Indonesian territorial waters, as well as the shutdown of international tracking systems, as the reason for the transfer of both ships to Batam Island and the start of the interrogation process of 36 Iranian nationals and 25 Chinese crew.

Why did Indonesia seize both ships?

The presence of Iranian and Chinese ships in Indonesian territorial waters, the illegal anchoring of the route on which traffic is to take place, and the shutdown of tracking systems and the non-response of the Indonesian Coast Guard are among the legal reasons announced by the Indonesian Coast Guard to seize both Iranian and Chinese ships.

Although, the United States has said that the Indonesian Coast Guard has taken steps to prevent Indonesian smuggling, the Indonesian Coast Guard has confirmed that it has ceded investigating the seizure of the two ships to a technical investigation team consisting of the Indonesian Coast Guard, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Transport, the Customs Office, the Immigration Office, the Ministry of Energy, the Ministry of Environment, the Navy and the Indonesian Police.

The formation of such a team with the presence of all government departments related to the seizure of these two ships, given the power structure in Indonesia, shows that the country seeks not to accept any pressure with regard to these two ships and a thorough and legal investigation into this issue.

When will the Iranian ship be released?

To answer this question, a few issues must first be considered. First of all, it must be acknowledged that Bakamala is now at a critical juncture. The Indonesian Coast Guard uses 17 different companies to carry out its duties due to the size of the Indonesian archipelago, so one of the promises made by Indonesian President Joko Widodo is to integrate Bakamala and assign a strong and central role to the maritime unit. 

It was not long before that the government introduced a bill called "Omnibus" to the parliament to integrate 21 laws related to the protection of 3.2 million square kilometers of territorial waters to provide a powerful role for its Coast Guard; With the ratification of the bill, Bakamala could play a decisive role in international waters. In fact, the Assembly of Southeast Asian Nations and Indonesia's neighbors are now awaiting the completion of the bill's legal process to work more closely with the Indonesia Coast Guard especially in the international arena on the international waterways and the South China Sea, which is the main point of contention between China and the United States.

In fact, now that Bakamala is at the height of national and regional attention, it has had to seize two ships that, in violation of international regulations, anchored along their route and turned off their tracking equipment.

Given the described situation, and while China-Indonesia trade relations are at their peak and the political relationship between Iran and Indonesia with the appointment of a new ambassador to Iran is expanding economic and cultural cooperation, "Bakamala" had no option except for the seizure of two ships.

Leaving the investigation on the dimensions of the presence of the two ships to a technical team consisting of several ministries and departments shows that Indonesia intends to deal with this issue regardless of the international pressure exerted by the United States from the very beginning.

While the Chinese Foreign Ministry has issued a statement expressing concern over the treatment of Chinese nationals in the tanker and calling for legal action, the Indonesian government seems to be dealing with this issue independently, as it has so far maintained its independent policy in international disputes despite pressure.

As expected, the Indonesian government's goodwill has also helped investigate the case of the two seized ships due to its proximity of political point of views to the Islamic Republic. Indonesia has always opposed the oppressive sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran and has stated its position against this issue in various fora.

Indonesian analysts also recently analyzed the relations between several Arab countries in West Asia and the Zionist regime, saying that Indonesia is likely to expand its trade and political relations with Iran, as the country with condemning the normalization of relations with the Zionist regime has a similar policy to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Perhaps the appointment of a new ambassador to Iran and his initial steps to honor the 70-year-old political relationship between Iran and Indonesia can be explained as part of these policies.

Although we have to wait for the official announcement of the results of the investigation by the Indonesian government, it seems that in the process of investigating the violations of these two ships, if there is no extrajudicial intervention, there will be no problem because the accusations against the Iranian ship are not so serious that the relations between the two countries are strained.

Now that the Indonesian government has announced that it will release the Iranian ship within a week if there is no problem or no court-friendly evidence, the policy of rapprochement between Iran and Indonesia will be reaffirmed.

Finally, in connection with some speculations about the possible connection between the seizure of this ship and the seizure of the South Korean ship by Iran, it should be emphasized that Indonesia's independent policies are far from being influenced by other countries and this has been the definitive policy of this country so far. On the other hand, South Korea does not have such influence in Indonesia to seek reciprocal action against Iran through this country.

Leave a Comment

1 + 2 =