Vessel detentions in Indonesia

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It has been brought to the Club’s attention that there have been an increased number of vessel detentions in the Eastern portion of the Singapore Strait, mainly in the waters around Bintan Island. These waters are often misconstrued as being the Outer Port Limit (OPL) of Singapore. The Club wishes to stress that these waters are in fact within the territorial waters of Indonesia.

Whilst about 20 recent ‘illegal anchoring’ detentions have been recorded, it has been advised that these are largely due to misunderstanding of the territorial water limits and the applicable local laws.

Local correspondents, Spica Services (Indonesia), have provided further clarification for Member’s reference.

Innocent Passage

The waters in the Malacca Strait (past Port Klang) and the Singapore Strait up to the entrance into the South China Sea, are territorial waters of either Malaysia, Indonesia or Singapore. The right to innocent passage, as per article 17 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), requires the passage to be continuous and expeditious (art. 18.2). This means that a vessel will be considered as making an innocent passage only if it proceeds without stopping unless for extenuating circumstances such as safety, danger or distress.

This means that vessels undergoing Ship to Ship (STS) transfer operations, as well as slowing down for the intention of performing commercial activities such as crew change, loading provisions or stores, all lead to a disqualification of the right to innocent passage.

Local Law

The local Indonesian laws require that any vessel not engaged in an innocent passage within the territorial waters of Indonesia (inward and outward) needs to obtain clearance from the relevant authorities. This rule also applies if the vessel is only anchored and has no intention of visiting Indonesia to carry out duties such as cargo operations, taking on supplies or crew changes. It is essential that a local agent is appointed to facilitate the necessary liaison with the authorities.

Transhipment activities (including launch boats carrying stores or crew) are categorised as activities that may violate Indonesian Law No. 17 of 2008. In upholding this law, it has been reported that the Indonesian Navy has fired live rounds of ammunition towards a merchant vessel. The Club would advise that in such a case, it is imperative that the Member’s vessel follows the orders of the Indonesian Navy.


Members are reminded not to anchor within Indonesian Territorial waters without verifying the anchoring position with the local agent and if necessary, obtaining the relevant inward clearance.

In the unfortunate event of vessel detention, the Club always advises Members to kindly co-operate with the Indonesian Navy and as soon as possible, to contact our local Indonesian correspondent, Spica Services in Jakarta to assist.

Spica’s contact details are as follows:

Wisma PMI, 6th Floor
Jl. Wijaya 1 No. 63, Kebayoran Baru
Jakarta Selatan 12170 – Indonesia
T: +62 21 2751 3535

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