Library of Congress

Law Library of Congress

The Library of Congress > Law Library > News & Events > Global Legal Monitor

Australia; Indonesia: Agreement on Access to Indonesian Seas Planned

(Aug. 6, 2012) On August 1, 2012, Indonesia's Defense Ministry announced plans for a future agreement with Australia that would permit Australian ships to patrol Indonesian waters under some circumstances. According to Brigadier General Hartind Asrin, a Ministry spokesman, “[w]e are now still working on the formula for the planned cooperation. We have established a working group, comprising representatives of related institutions, to work on this. No details have been finalized as of today.” (Bagus B.T. Saragih, Australia Will Get Access to Indonesian Seas, THE JAKARTA POST (Aug. 2, 2012).)

One condition under which access to Indonesian waters will probably be given in the expected agreement is search and rescue missions, undertaken when a ship is in an accident and people on board are in danger. (Id.)

The possible agreement will be discussed in September, when Australian Defense Minister Stephen Smith and Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare will visit Jakarta for a meeting on maritime cooperation and other topics. (No Free Access for Aussie Navy: Indonesia, THE AUSTRALIAN (Aug. 2, 2012).) Indonesia's Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro will also attend the meeting. Preliminary talks on the future pact began in July, when Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono came to Australia to meet that country's Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. Several other agreements were signed at that time. A follow-up meeting between the Foreign Ministers of the two countries, Marty Natalegawa of Indonesia, and Bob Carr, of Australia, held in Jakarta, focused on search and rescue operations. (Saragih, supra.)

Attention has been drawn to search and rescue operations following a number of well-known accidents in which boats ran into trouble at sea between Australia and Indonesia, resulting in dozens of deaths, including fifty fatalities in one incident near Christmas Island. (Id.) However, both Defense Ministry and legislative officials in Indonesia have stressed the need to maintain their nation's sovereign control over its seas, making it clear that totally free access to national waters would not be permitted. (Id.)

Hartind Asrin spoke about the issue, stating:

The matter of sovereignty must still be respected by both countries. … Basically, every SOS call must be responded to. But then, reporting to our authorities is still needed. … Permission is still a must because that's the epitome of sovereignty. Security clearance is a definite for air and water traffic, which we issue based on a code from Foreign Ministry.” (No Free Access for Aussie Navy: Indonesia, supra.)