JAKARTA - Indonesia's sea transport directorate-general said it has nabbed two Singaporean boats - allegedly with no permits - piloting a tanker travelling through Indonesian waters in the Malacca Strait.
Pilot boats are usually used by big vessels, such as tankers and cruise ships, to navigate through crowded or reef-infested channels of waters.
Indonesia's KN336 patrol boat, dispatched from Batam, stopped the Singaporean boats - DM55 Singapore and Sea Sparrow I - both owned by DM Sea Logistics, and escorted them to a nearby port on Tuesday morning, said Batam port office head Hery Setiobudi.
The office comes under the sea transport directorate-general.
Speaking to reporters, Mr Hery said: "Both vessels operated illegally. The tanker should have been piloted by Indonesian boats. Foreign boats doing piloting jobs must report to the Indonesian authorities. We are at loss due to this activity."
Indonesia's state-owned port operator PT Pelabuhan Indonesia operates pilot boats for hire but foreign boats may provide piloting service in Indonesian waters provided they apply for permits.
Any big vessel passing through Indonesian waters in the Strait of Malacca that needs a pilot boat service is usually charged between US$5,000 (S$6,800) and US$10,000 for each trip, Mr Hery said.
The seven crew members of the two Singapore boats - three captains, who are Singaporeans, and four officers who are Indonesians - are currently in Batam's Sekupang port on board their boats and held under guard while the case is being investigated. They denied they had piloted the tanker.
"The crew of both Singaporean boats denied they were piloting a vessel but we have been monitoring what they were doing for a while. We always failed to stop them because they travelled at high speed. This time around, we managed to nab them," said Mr Hery.
The sea transport directorate-general plans to charge the boats' owners under a 2008 law on sea transport, which mandates that the government regulate, levy taxes and issue permits for vessels travelling in the country's waters.
This article was first published on March 5, 2015.
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