17 Indonesian fishermen adrift in open sea for three nights after boat capsizes

In late August, a fishing boat, which had spent several days on the south side of Bawean Island, was returning to shore when it met with bad weather.  A strong wave hit the small boat and it capsized.  Sunaryo, the boat captain, and 16 other fishermen were left adrift in the open sea for three nights, 50 miles away from their home in Lamongan, before they were rescued by another passing fishing boat.

The 17 fishermen after being rescued.

Imamur Rosyidin, spokesperson for the 17 fishermen, said after being rescued, they were sent to the Karanganyar Port, Central Java, where they were met by their families, representatives from the fishermen’s association and the police.  Thereafter, the 17 fishermen received medical treatment at a local hospital.

Imamur said the victims had only a buoy among them and they survived on rainwater and a bit of food salvaged from the sinking boat.  He added the government should pay more attention to the safety of fishermen as accidents are getting more common.  There must be more financial assistance for fishermen involved in accidents at sea and officials must make sure that fishermen are equipped with safety knowledge.

Victims’ families waiting at the port.

Yuli Wahyuono, an official from the Lamongan District Government, wanted the fishermen to buy insurance.  “Insurance is very affordable at IDR 16,800 (US$1.13) per month and is helpful in times of a disaster.  We are currently discussing with the regional government to provide free insurance to the 25,000 fishermen in Lamongan Regency.  Right now, free insurance is only available from the central government, which only covers fewer than 1,000 fishermen,” he said.

“The benefits of insurance cannot be seen right now.  But a fisherman’s job is dangerous, risky and accidents are getting common.  Once, I have seen a fisherman died when the boat he was on with two other fishermen was hit by big waves.  We are always raising awareness and educating fishermen on the need for insurance.  Indeed, there is still a lack of awareness which has to be addressed.” 

Victims’ family members.

Muhammad Badrus Zaman, marine transportation researcher, Sepuluh Nopember Institute of Technology (ITS), said fishermen need to receive continuous training on how to operate their boats in bad weather and also there should be safety equipment on the boats.

“The fishermen often do not have proper communications devices on their boats and so they cannot call for help when they are in distress.  The fishermen only care about whether they can start their engines or not.  This is certainly very dangerous,” said Badrus Zaman.

“Fishermen cannot ignore their own safety and they must check the safety standard of their boats regularly.  Accidents are not only caused by bad weather alone.  Accidents are also caused by the rundown conditions of the boats, lack of safety equipment, and the fishermen’s lack of proper training in piloting their boats, among other reasons.”

Badrus Zaman said many, if not all, local fishermen are impoverished and have no savings, they do not have the extra money to repair their boats or buy communications devices for emergency uses.  And they rather use whatever money they earned to provide for their families.  Therefore, the government has to step in to help them financially.

Top photo credit: iStock/ Kanenori. Stock photo of fishermen.

All other photos credit: Imamur Rosyidin

Ibnu Wibowo

Ibnu Wibowo

Ibnu Wibowo, Indonesia journalist, is a former political journalist with high dedication and determination to his craft. He is interested in writing about politics and international relations.

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