Indonesian fisherman died while out at sea, raises questions about insurance program 

On October 27, 26-year-old Ali Masykur, a fisherman from Banyuwangi Regency, went missing while on a fishing trip. Fellow fishermen alerted the authority and a large-scale search involving the police, army and volunteers was conducted. On October 31, his dead body was found floating in the Lampon waters.

The head of the Banyuwangi Search and Rescue Team, Wahyu Setya Budi, said he received reports of the victim from the local community at around 21:50 WIB, after which he immediately organized search teams. 

Wahyu said: “The boat was reportedly found drifting without a crew in Lampon Waters, Banyuwangi Regency, at coordinates 08°37’55.1″S 114°05’57.7″E. The search teams, with army, police, search and rescue teams, volunteers, and local fishermen, were deployed to three targets. Four days later, his body was found one nautical mile from the boat to the west at coordinates 8°38’15.3″S 114°04’00.1″E and sent to a local hospital for autopsy.”

Ali’s body found by search teams. Photo credit: Banyuwangi Regency Search and Rescue

Ali’s death brought back into spotlight the issue of the Fisherman Insurance Program, launched by the Indonesian Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries. Ali, the sole breadwinner, was not covered by insurance and his family did not receive any compensation.

According to an investigation by Maritime Fairtrade, not many fishermen in Sidoarjo Regency joined the insurance program. Ruslan, a local fisherman with four children, said he was not given financial aid by the government and he did not have enough money to pay for the insurance premium.

“The government asked all fishermen to join in the program but the problem is not all are entitled to free insurance, with the government paying the premium for them. The cost per month is IDR 20,000 (US$1.30) and for fishermen, this is a big amount. We already have a lot of debts and our income is unstable, so if the government is not giving us free insurance, then we rather not pay ourselves,” said Ruslan.

Ruslan said there is no clear criteria of who is eligible for free insurance and he suspected officials would give free insurance to their friends and family members first, thus using up quotas meant for poor fishermen.

Search teams. Photo credit: Banyuwangi Regency Search and Rescue

Tarina Handaningrum, a Sidoarjo Regency Government official, said there are about a thousand fishermen who received insurance fee assistance for the Fisherman’s Insurance Program, under the criteria set by the Indonesian Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries. 

Fisherman’s Village, Sidoarjo. Photo credit: Ibnu Wibowo

There is a relatively high number of fishing accidents in Lamongan Regency, Yuli Wahyuono, a Lamongan District Government official, told Maritime Fairtrade, and as such, he encouraged all fishermen to sign up for insurance.

“The cost of insurance is very affordable at IDR 16,800 per month. We are also currently in discussion to offer free insurance, to be paid for by the regional government, for all 25,000 fishermen in Lamongan Regency. Right now, free insurance is only provided by the central government to about 1,000 fishermen,” said Yuli.

“Fishing is a risky business. We always raise awareness about the risks and dangers so that fishermen are aware of the need for insurance. Indeed, we have to improve our public education to fishing communities.”

Fisherman’s Village, Sidoarjo. Photo credit: Ibnu Wibowo

Muhammad Miftah, a public policy researcher, urged the government to increase the quota of beneficiaries for free insurance. According to him, it is important to provide a safety net for fishermen and their families in the event a disaster occurs at sea. He said most fishermen live in poverty and the insurance cost, at most IDR 50,000 per person, does not burden the state budget.

Top photo credit: Ibnu Wibowo. Fisherman’s Village, Sidoarjo.

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