Indonesia faces hurdles in helping fishing community

ILO 188 and the long journey ahead.

Indonesia wants to ratify ILO 188 to protect the fishing community, but a long process awaits.  

By Diana M, Indonesia correspondent, Maritime Fairtrade

How to protect the fishing community is a long-standing issue in Indonesia, and to resolve it, the government has been focusing on regulations to ensure the welfare and decent working conditions.  Officials are also looking at ratifying the International Labor Organization (ILO)’s Work in Fishing Convention, or ILO 188. However, after years of discussions, there is still a long way ahead to complete the ratification process and to implement it.

Adopted by ILO in 2007, the convention seeks to ensure protection and safety and having proper medical care for the fishing community through a clear work contract and agreement. For a maritime country with millions of people working in the fishing industry, it is urgent for Indonesia to ratify this convention as soon as possible.

During the latest meeting between related ministries and ILO in October, stakeholders continued gap analysis and identification on the preparedness of each institution as ratification effort continued. 

“Findings presented by ILO in their comparative study should be the main point of attention to improve the roadmap on the protection of fishers created by ministries and state agencies,” Deputy Minister at the Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs and Investment Basilio Dias Araujo said after the meeting.

Government is confident of covering all bases

Speaking to Maritime Fairtrade, Rizki Mandalika from the Bureau of Legal Affairs at the Ministry of Manpower explained that the government aims, first and foremost, to make sure all related regulations and law are fundamentally complying to ILO 188.

“We’ve created the roadmap and every compliance needed for regulatory alignment – ensuring our laws are in line with the convention. In the Ministry of Manpower, for example, this includes regulating trainings, certifications, and fishers’ placement for both domestic and overseas vessels,” Mandalika said.

Up until now, however, the authority has yet to issue the mandated government regulation on the protection of fishermen working abroad which are classified as migrant workers.  Nonetheless, Minister of Manpower Ida Fauziyah has previously confirmed that the proposed regulation already substantially complies with ILO 188. 

While stakeholders are still waiting for the regulation to be passed, Mandalika is optimistic that once it is issued, this will speed up the ratification process.  He added that harmonizing the relevant policies becomes the government’s main priority because this will help the process.

Previously in 2017, Indonesia ratified the Maritime Labor Convention (MLC) prior to regulatory alignment. And as a result, many of the derivative regulations have yet to be issued even up till now. 

Access to more markets 

According to Mandalika, besides providing safety and protection, another key benefit of ratifying ILO 188 is giving access to Indonesian fishermen to sell their catch in countries that have ratified the convention.

“Ratification will improve Indonesia’s image as a maritime country, particularly in ILO, IMO, and FAO. It will also create more market opportunities for our fishers, especially in countries that have ratified the convention, such as Angola, Argentina, the UK, and the Netherlands, and it will increase the value of our products globally. And internally and most importantly, ratification will accelerate regulatory synchronization and coordination between stakeholders in national fisheries sector,” he said.

However, it is worth noting that none of the countries in the ratification list is Indonesia’s main export markets.  Mandalika said the ratification will bring even bigger impacts to Indonesia if countries like Taiwan, South Korea or Malaysia also opts to adopt the convention into their respective national laws.

Many hurdles waiting to be cleared

Be that as it may, ratifying ILO 188 is a lengthy process and comes with downsides too.  Complying with the whole process as regulated in the convention might become a problem later on. For example, many traditional fishing boats in Indonesia have yet to meet the requirements set out in the convention.

“Most fishing boats in Indonesian waters don’t meet the ILO 188 requirements. This issue will be closely monitored by ILO, and it can potentially become a violation. We should resolve this issue immediately, or we risk getting penalized,” Mandalika said.

Cases of unfair treatment or abuses of fishermen that continue to happen after ratification will become another big elephant in the room if this issue is not address right now.  There must now be an action plan to address enforcement, plug all loopholes and prosecution of perpetrators.  Indonesia cannot afford to only address complaints and reports on rights violation after ratifying the convention.

Lastly, joint inspection as regulated by ILO 88 has the potential to create friction between different ministries and state agencies as there are existing overlapping tasks and roles.  There must be a clear delineation of authority and responsibility and this requires a major overhaul of the current organizational structure.

“Enhancing coordination in monitoring and law enforcement is necessary. Joint inspection, for example, has been an obstacle in the implementation of MLC; who does what is a hurdle as it hasn’t been specified yet. And it may also happen to the implementation of ILO 188,” concluded Mandalika.

Image credit: Yusnizam Yusof /

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