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Indonesia intends to buy 96 additional patrol boats

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The Defence Minister of Indonesia, Purnomo Yusgiantoro, today confirmed that the Ministry is following the plan to increase the Navy’s (Indonesian: Tentara Nasional Indonesia Angkatan Laut, TNI–AL) inventory of patrol vessels by the purchase of 96 additionally boats. 

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The Navy needs these vessels to strengthen border security and to prevent illegal fishing and piracy in Indonesian waters, a Ministry spokesman confirmed.

According to the fleet expansion plans of 2005, the Indonesian Navy already introduces some 23 PC-40-type patrol craft built by Fasharkan Mentigi. The 40 meter vessel is armed with one 20mm cannon and two 12.7mm heavy machine guns. Achieving top speeds of 20 knots (37km/h) the craft is especially built for maritime security patrol duties such as anti-piracy, prevention of illegal fishing, and border protection operations.

However, the plan needs the support of the House of Representatives which have to approve the Rp 6 trillion ($634.8 million) proposed by the Ministry for the purchase the patrol vessels. "We need Rp 6 trillion to buy those patrol boats," Purnomo said during a hearing with members of House Commission I, which oversees defence, intelligence and foreign affairs.

Navy spokesman, Commodore Iskandar Sitompul, confirmed to a national newspaper that Indonesia already had the capability to manufacture the vessels at the Surabaya yards of the domestic ship-maker PT PAL Indonesia. He also confirmed that a minimum of 120 patrol vessel, each worth some Rp40 billion, were required to sufficiently strengthen border security. The spokesman’s assessment is in a line with the national director general for resource supervision and control at the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry, Aji Sularso, who last month confirmed that more such vessels are urgently required.

Illegal fishing is a major problem in Indonesia. According to experts, the Southeast Asian state loses at least 50 per cent of the total revenue through illegal fishing activities, reaching an annual value of up to $2 billion. Those activities are rampant in regions such as the eastern coast of North Sumatra and the waters of North Maluku and West Kalimantan.

A second key task will be to improve border security efforts. "We also need the vessels to strengthen our defense in border areas," General Djoko Santoso. Indonesian Military (TNI) commander explained. Therefore, the vessels would also be deployed along the Malacca Strait, which separates Indonesia and peninsular Malaysia, as well as in the Sulawesi Sea, which is the Indonesian/Philippine border. Particularly the Malacca Strait is renowned for being one of the world’s hot spots of piracy, particularly in the late 1990s and during the first years of the new century. A combined effort of the Malaysian, Indonesian and Singaporean navies, significantly increasing patrols since July 2004, considerably reduced the number of pirate attacks.

Djoko Santoso said one of the main border problems was the 15,235-square kilometers Ambalat block in the Makassar Strait near the land border between Sabah in Malaysia and East Kalimantan in Indonesia, where border disputes have been going on since 1969. "Malaysia often breaches into Indonesian territory because of Indonesia's weak primary weaponry system," Djoko Santoso said.

Besides the plan to purchase new patrol vessels, Purnomo also informed the Commission of his intention to raise the allowance for 400 soldiers deployed on twelve remote islands as well as for 9,000 soldiers stationed to guard the land border between Indonesia and East Timor, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea. The Minister mentioned that allowances would amount from 50 to 100 percent of the basic salaries. "The increase has been approved by the Finance Minister and will begin starting January," he told the Commission.

Accordingly, the Indonesian defence budget will be increased from Rp 33.67 trillion ($3.56 billion) in 2009 to Rp 42.3 trillion ($4.47 billion) in 2010.

By Luca Bonsignore, Publisher
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