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Indonesian marine police crack down on local pirates

Indonesia's Western Fleet Quick Response Task Force Team presents a group of pirates captured in the Malacca Strait in May 2018. Photo: Antara News, Indonesia's state-owned news agency.

Aggressive action by Indonesia’s marine police is putting pressure on Southeast Asian pirates and the number of local attacks is falling, the crime-fighting International Maritime Bureau has reported.

“Recent meetings and continued dialogue between the Indonesian marine police and the IMB PRC resulted in positive actions by the Indonesian authorities which have so far brought incidents down. With the assistance and actions of the IMP, the incidents appear to be decreasing each quarter,” the IMB has stated.

Piracy and maritime armed robbery

Cyrus Moody, the assistant director of the IMB, told FreightWaves that about 95% of maritime crime in Southeast Asia is of the “armed robbery against ships” variety, which usually takes place in ports and in anchorages. Under global and national laws, a “pirate” attacks ships on the high seas, whereas an “armed robber” attacks ships inside the maritime boundaries of a country. Although it’s physically the same crime, because of that legal difference there are numerous real-world consequences

Moody added that that there is a “robust response” from Indonesian marine police when maritime robberies are reported and that the drop in piracy and armed robbery numbers can be attributed to their actions.

Numbers of actual and attempted attacks plummet

Incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships around the archipelago nation of Indonesia has plummeted over the last five years, according to the latest statistics by the International Maritime Bureau. There has been a 76.7% fall between 2015 and the year to September in the numbers of actual and attempted attacks by pirates and ship-targeted armed robbers.

“The reason is that the Indonesian marine police and us [the International Maritime Bureau] have exchanged information. We’ve identified 11 areas of concern. The police have put in patrol boats and the incidents have tapered off. The patrol boats can respond very quickly and the perpetrators are caught. It’s about identifying areas of concern and putting in assets,” Moody told FreightWaves.

Between January and September this year in the region of Indonesia, there were 17 actual boardings of ships by marine robbers and three attempted boardings, according to IMB data. Indonesian pirates favor boarding ships that are anchored (eight ships actually boarded; 47% of the total number of actual boardings) or berthed (six ships actually boarded; 35% of the total). There were only three ships (18%) that were actually boarded while underway.

The Indonesian ports and anchorages that saw the most attempted and actual pirate and maritime attacks this year between January and September are Belawan (three), Taboneo (three) and Tanjung Priok/Jakarta (three).

Modus operandi

Moody explained the typical method of attack used by Indonesian pirates. “It’s a very different crime,” he said, referring by way of contrast to West African maritime armed robbery and piracy.

“People board [ships] in the hours of darkness to get their hands on what they can. Usually if they are confronted by the crew they will evade. But sometimes crew are in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Moody told FreightWaves.

Although Indonesian and other Southeast Asian pirates typically will flee when confronted by crew, being boarded by Southeast Asian pirates can lead to violence. During the January to September timeframe, there were two assaults during pirate and armed robberies in or near Indonesia, three hostage takings, one person was injured and one person was threatened.

Use of weapons

While the majority of reports to the IMB do not state exactly what type of weapons are used, there is a clear trend in Indonesia for “knives” to be used. It is not stated exactly what type of “knives” these are but the everyday use of machetes in rural villages is widespread in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific Islands. The IMB does refer in its commentaries to “knives and/or machetes.” There was one incident in which a gun was used in Indonesia.

“During hijackings, there are reports of firearms seen and not used. Still, it’s a threat,” Moody commented. 

About the IMB

The IMB is a not-for-profit and non-political specialist division of the International Chamber of Commerce set up in 1981 as a “focal point” to help counter international maritime crime. The International Maritime Organization (a division of the United Nations) adopted a resolution on November 20, 1981, urging governments and all other interested parties to co-operate and share information with the IMB to help in the fight against maritime crime. 

One of the key functions of the IMB is to relay live piracy and armed robbery information. In the event of an attack, the IMB can relay information to local maritime police and navies who may be in a position to intervene. Secondly, the IMB can broadcast and emergency alert to all ships in the region so that they can take countermeasures or, if appropriate, render assistance. The warning will also let ships that are about to enter the high threat area. 

As maritime piracy and armed robbery takes place all over the globe, the IMB will accept reports from around the world, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

The IMB urges ship operators and other appropriate persons to file incident reports. “Your information may save lives,” the IMB has stated. 

Contact the IMB’s 24 hour anti-piracy emergency helpline: + 60 3 2031 0014

The IMB can also be contacted by fax and email:

Fax: + 60 3 2078 5769
E-mail: [email protected] / [email protected]