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Exclusive: Indonesian navy officers demand $375,000 in order to release a tanker, according to sources

Image: Reuters Berita 24 English - According to two people involved in the unofficial payment negotiations, Indonesian naval personnel have ...

Image: Reuters

Berita 24 English - According to two people involved in the unofficial payment negotiations, Indonesian naval personnel have requested for $375,000 to release a petroleum tanker they held last week for mooring illegally in Indonesian waters off Singapore.

The incident follows a dozen such detentions reported by Reuters last year. Ship owners made unofficial payments of around $300,000 each in such circumstances, and the vessels seized by the Indonesian navy east of Singapore were released.

According to the two security sources, the Nord Joy petroleum tanker was boarded by armed navy officers on May 30 while anchored in Indonesian waters to the east of the Singapore Strait, one of the world's busiest maritime lanes.

"It is totally illegal," Indonesian navy spokesman Julius Widjojono said when asked if naval officers had sought for $375,000 to release the Nord Joy. He did not respond to demands for additional information.

He verified that the Nord Joy had been held by Indonesian navy forces on suspicion of illegally anchoring in Indonesian seas, infringing Indonesian sea passage rights, and sailing without a national flag.

"According to preliminary information, (the case) is still under investigation at the Batam naval base," he said.

Anchoring without a permit is punishable in Indonesia by a year in prison for the captain of a vessel and a fine of 200 million rupiah ($13,840), according to Widjojono.

The Indonesian navy reported in November that the number of detentions for anchoring without permission, deviating from the sailing route, or pausing in the middle of a journey for an unacceptable amount of time had increased.

Vessels were either freed owing to a lack of evidence or the cases were handled by Indonesian courts, with no compensation paid to the navy or its personnel, according to the navy.


The Nord Joy is a Panamanian-flagged vessel with a length of 183 meters (200 yards) and a capacity of 350,000 barrels of gasoline. The vessel's owner has yet to be identified, according to Reuters.

Synergy Group, the Singapore-based firm that administers the Nord Joy, did not answer to queries about the purported request for an unauthorized payment by navy personnel.

Nord Joy anchored in a spot deemed to be clear of Indonesian territorial seas on May 26, according to Synergy, and the Indonesian navy boarded the vessel on May 30, alleging it was within its territory.

Synergy said it was attempting to settle the situation with the navy, lawyers, and local agents.

According to the two sources, the Nord Joy was escorted by navy ships to an anchorage in Batam, a small island 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of Singapore that is home to a naval base.

According to the reports, the master of the tanker was hauled into the base and informed by navy personnel that he needed to arrange payment of $375,000 or risk losing months of income if the matter went to court.

The cost of chartering a refined product tanker of the Nord Joy from Singapore to China changes on a regular basis. According to data from ship broker Simpson Spence Young, it peaked at $1.12 million per day on May 9 and was $820,000 as of June 8.

Ships have anchored in areas to the east of the Singapore Strait for years, assuming they are in international waters and hence not liable for port fees, according to nautical specialists.

In recent years, the Indonesian navy has stated publicly that much of this area is within its territorial seas, and that it intends to prosecute vessels anchored there without a license.

(1 rupiah = 14,454.0000)

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