INDONESIA - At a naval base south of Batam last week, senior officers from the navy, police, Customs and Transport Ministry gathered to witness the launch of Indonesia's first homemade patrol craft.
The two new boats are destined to serve next year in a new coast guard as the government steps up efforts to curb rising threats such as piracy, smuggling and illegal fishing in the sprawling archipelago.
The 48m-long boats, KN Bintang Laut 4801 and KN Singa Laut 4802, are equipped with 12.7mm and 20mm machine guns, cameras with a viewing range of up to 20km, and sophisticated surveillance devices.
Four more such vessels, each costing 58 billion rupiah (S$6.4 million), are being built in Batam and will be ready for use by the Maritime Security Agency (Bakorkamla), which is being upgraded into a fully fledged coast guard next year.
"The beefing up is timely. Our role is to fill the gap and consistently stay on call," Bakorkamla commander Bambang Suwarto told reporters.
"Up to this point, we have been using patrol boats that belonged to other agencies under our charge," he said.
Bakorkamla - which currently plays only a coordinating role - has eight 11m-long catamaran patrol vessels and 10 rift patrol ships donated by various countries, mainly Australia.
Vice-Admiral (Ret) Djoko Sumaryono, secretary-general of the association of retired Indonesian navy officers, believes that turning Bakorkamla into a coast guard would streamline Indonesia's maritime protection efforts.