Ship Captains Allegedly Held By Indonesia’s Navy Decry Bribes And Betrayal

Plagued by mosquitoes at night and marauding monkeys during the day, Glenn Madoginog, a ship captain, was held for several months at a naval base before in Indonesia before he ended up in a cramped prison cell, sleeping with child rapists and convicted murderers.

The Filipino, who was a father of four, was among the dozens of ship captains to be held at the Batam naval base on being arrested on reports of anchoring in the Indonesian waters without permission while waiting to get into Singapore, per a dozen of people who were involved in the cases, including ship captains, ship owners, insurers, and intermediaries.

Most captains were released after a few weeks after the ship owners made unofficial monetary payments to the navy intermediaries. In such cases, the payment was between $300,000 and $400,000, per information from multiple sources.

Ship Captain
Image for representation purpose only

But Madoginog, 47, says his firm declined, so he and his vessel, the Seaways Rubymar oil tanker, at least 20 years old, was captive at the base on Batam, an Indonesian island that is 20 miles toward the south of Singapore.

Following a wait of up to six months, Madoginog was sentenced to 60 days in jail in March, his once-proud life as a ship’s captain shattered as he ended up in a cockroach-infested, crowded, crowded cell.

The last few months were the worst phase of his life, Madoginog reported to Reuters in his apartment in Manila, where he got back in May 2022.

He added that he feels hopeless and ashamed.

US firm International Seaways (INSW.N), one of the world’s largest tanker operators and the owner of the Seaways Rubymar when it was detained, said that it had pursued legal avenues to get the vessel and Madoginog released.

Per the policy, they do not pay bribes, it said via an email response to Reuters, adding that it did all it could to improve the conditions of Madoginog while in custody and continued providing medical and financial support to him as well as his family.

The Seaways Rubymar has reportedly since been scrapped.

Dozens of ships were waiting to enter Singapore. They have been seized over 2021 by Indonesia’s navy for illegally anchoring in its territorial waters. Reuters reported that most of them were released after the ship owners had made unofficial payments.

The waters just to the east of Singapore have been used for decades by vessels waiting to enter the city-state. However, Indonesia’s navy has been cracking down on the ship that ( according to them ) anchor in the nation’s territory without clearing port fees.

The Indonesian navy has reportedly said it never receives or requests money to release the vessels.

Detentions are handled via courts, or ships are released if there is insufficient evidence to prosecute, a navy spokesman mentioned.

The navy did not respond to requests for additional comments.

Julius Widjojono, a spokesperson, informed Reuters in September, however, that the navy chief was sharing a team of investigators to Batam without sharing additional details or any time frame.

“This is piracy.”

The four ship captains said they firmly believed they had been held for ransom in a well-organized extortion scheme operated by the members of the navy, as reported by Reuters earlier.

David Ledoux, an American who was the captain of the fibre-optic cable-laying vessel named Reliance when it was arrested in 2021, said that he dodged prison after the owner of the ship made an unofficial monetary payment for rescuing him.

This is piracy in the simplest form: arrest the vessel, stop the ship’s captain, hold the firm ransom, get the money, Ledoux shared with Reuters in his home in North Carolina’s New Bern, also accusing the navy members of orchestrating such a scheme.

Reuters could not determine the amount paid to free the ship or when such payment was made.

Reliance’s owner, SubCom, an undersea cable firm based in New Jersey, did not respond to requests for comment.

The US embassy in Jakarta informed Reuters that it was aware of the detentions and payments being made to parties claiming to represent Indonesia’s Navy.

Ships must be cautious when navigating such waters,” a US official mentioned, without answering further questions.

The alternative to making a payment to the intermediaries working on behalf of the navy was to wait for cases to go to court, leaving vessels idle for months and costing owners far more in terms of lost revenue for vessels they could quickly lease for thousands of dollars each day.

Ledoux, 57, questioned why governments and ship owners were not doing more to raise awareness of such an issue.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO), a UN agency responsible for shipping safety and security, said it examines matters the members raise. It was yet to receive a request to look into this matter.

The area where vessels were detained is over 12 nm from the coastline of Indonesia, the standard distance considered to be in international waters under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The captains mentioned the Seaways Rubymar and Reliance were anchored in the area known as East OPL.

Indonesia, however, is an archipelago blanketing over 17,000 islands. Its territorial waters can be drawn around the drying reefs or uninhabited islands, which could also mean that captains believe, incorrectly, they’re in international waters, a maritime lawyer and ship insurers said.
That’s why the people have been caught out, explained Stephen Askins, a maritime lawyer based in London.

Ledoux said that he was directed where to anchor the ship by an agent of SubCom based in Singapore named Ben Line. Madoginog said that his anchorage position had also been approved by the V-Ships, a London-based firm that manages his tanker, without providing further evidence.

Ben Line refused the allegations of wrongdoings without addressing any questions regarding the anchorage. V-Ships have not responded to a request for comment.

Ledoux and most ship captains detained by the navy were released within a few weeks after the ship owners reportedly made a payment. The 12 individuals involved in the transactions informed Reuters.

When Ledoux was released on 28 October, he set sail the Reliance to Singapore for maintenance activities. Once the repairs had been executed, he was called by the director of the SubCom fleet operations, Scott Winfield, saying that his tone had shifted from being compassionate to hostile. Ledoux lost his temper and submitted his resignation.

Winfield and SubCom did not respond to requests for comment.

Madoginog informed that he was detained on 16 September 2021 in a dawn raid by relevant naval officers. He added that they asked him to sail to Batam and then come onshore to sign the port clearance papers. They further informed him that the paperwork would take only a couple of hours.

When he arrived, he was placed in a sweltering, dark room by officers, with an uncovered bed and a filthy toilet. An officer asked for the phone number of the ship’s owners and departed.
There was no pillow, linens, air conditioning, fans, nothing, Madoginog said, adding that there was a time when he counted 27 other ship captains in similar rooms.

Ledoux and Madoginog became friends, washing their clothes, burning trash in the yard outside the rooms, and checking for long-tailed macaques.

“They left me behind.”

Buana Saka Samudera, an Indonesian agent, associated with the International Seaways, provided Madoginog with bedding, food, and an air conditioning unit for his room on the base and ultimately got him his cell and better quality food in prison.

Buana Saka Samudera did not respond to requests for comment.

Madoginog said that he isn’t working now and is under treatment for depression following the ordeal.

Other ship captains had their rooms on the Batam base upgraded by local agents paid for by their ship-owners. After captains were released, navy personnel sometimes shifted to the refurbished quarters, Ledoux and Madoginog said.

Madoginog added that he had to stay on the base until mid-November, when navy officials sent him and the other captains back to their ships after a Reuters article about the arrests.

Madoginog stayed on the ship till he was reportedly convicted in March owing to the illegal anchorage and sentenced to two months in jail, court documents reflect. He says he did not understand what the judge, prosecutor, or his interpreters had been saying and could not provide evidence at many court hearings.

Reuters could not see the evidence presented at the trial to prove that the vessel was in Indonesian waters.

Edy Sameaputty, a Batam District Court spokesman, said that the trial had been conducted per relevant criminal laws and that Madoginog was given the right to defence. By the time he was out of prison, Madoginog’s vessel and crew members were gone, and no one from the firm was present to meet him. He added that he was left behind.

References: Investing, Reuters, Yahoo News

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