JAKARTA - Indonesia launched four ships equipped with fishing vessel inspection systems Friday in Jakarta.
Described by officials as the largest such monitoring vessels the country has ever acquired, their launch from Tanjung Priok Harbor comes amid increased tensions over maritime territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
"We developed the Indonesian Fisheries Inspectorate Vessels System as proof of the seriousness of the government," said Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti. "The government will continue to guard the sea so perpetrators of illegal fishing could not steal our fish."
The vessels are expected to patrol the Arafuru Sea between Papua New Guinea and Australia, along with waters off Sulawesi and the Natuna Islands, which have been the site of repeated conflict between Indonesian and Chinese fishing boats.
"Our mission, according to the regulations, is to monitor, inspect and take action against those ships that, when inspected, are proven to have conducted illegal fishing," said Captain Agung Tri Wibowo, skipper of the newly launched Orca 02.
The four new Orca monitoring vessels — 60 meters in length and 8.2 meters wide, capable of 25 knots and equipped with S-band navigation equipment — add to Indonesia's fleet of 31 vessels already patrolling the country's maritime borders.
Susi says her ministry plans to build two to three new Orca vessels annually over the next five years.
Jakarta claimed in mid-March that a Chinese boat was illegally fishing just over four kilometers off the coast of the Natuna Islands and inside waters Indonesia claims as its exclusive economic zone. In that incident, the Chinese vessel Kway Fey was being towed by Indonesia coastal officials when a Chinese coast guard vessel collided with it, allowing its escape.
This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Indonesian service.