Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelagic state, with more than 18,000 islands and over 7.9 million square kilometers of sea, understands the need to collaborate with neighboring countries to ensure maritime security and sovereignty. For example, in late September, the chief of the Maritime Security Agency (Bakamla), Vice Admiral Aan Kurnia, held a virtual meeting with the commander of the Singapore Police Coast Guard (SPCG), Senior Assistant Commissioner Cheang Keng Keong, to reaffirm a close partnership.
Speaking to Maritime Fairtrade, the spokesperson for Bakamla, Colonel Wisnu Pramandita, said the thirty-minute meeting resulted in an agreement for capacity enhancement and information exchange. He said: “The information exchange agreement with Singapore will improve response time on potential threats.”
According to the director of the National Maritime Institute Siswanto Rusdi, sharing and exchanging information is not something new, including for the purpose of maritime security. He said information is a ‘strategic commodity’ and although Indonesia is headed in the right direction, the country lacks the infrastructure to truly reap the benefits of information sharing.
Given Indonesia’s sea area is among the largest in the region, Rusdi suggested that internally, it is imperative for the government to build a good IT platform to collect and share information among all the relevant parties and law enforcement agencies to secure maritime sovereignty.
“An adequate system has yet to be built in Indonesia,” he said. Therefore, it makes sense for Indonesia to collaborate with Singapore, a country known for having a capability in advance IT systems and technologies. On the other hand, Singapore will gain too with intelligence supplied from the Indonesian side.
Rusdi said: “In the last 10 to 15 years, there has been a shared awareness and understanding among maritime authorities that it’s almost impossible to individually gather and act on all the intelligence available out there. It is much more productive to share information and have joint operations thereafter, if need be, to act on the information.
“Indonesia and Singapore are close neighbors and there’s only a very thin line between the maritime sovereignty of both countries. Transnational criminals know this and they can cross maritime borders relatively easily, therefore, both Indonesia and Singapore have to counter this threat by working closely.”
As an example, Rusdi cited the Information Fusion Center (IFC) hosted by the Singapore Navy. IFC aims to provide actionable information to cue responses by regional and international navies, coast guards and other maritime agencies to deal with the full range of maritime security threats and incidents like piracy, sea robbery, weapons proliferation, maritime terrorism, as well as contraband and drug smuggling. The IFC has 20 partners including a representative from the Indonesian Navy.
During the meeting with Singapore, Bakamla also proposed three other areas for cooperation: an annual bilateral meeting between the institution and SPCG to discuss current regional maritime issues; capacity building of staff through trainings, courses, research and development, experts exchange, internships, and seminars; and to create a hotline and single point of contact.
For many years, Singapore is one of Indonesia’s main maritime strategic partners. Pramandita said working closely with Singapore is Bakamla’s priority. There will be more meetings, exchange programs, forums and bilateral maritime exercises.