Artha Rimba master violated law

Disaster Prevention and Management

ISSN: 0965-3562

Article publication date: 1 March 2000



Ion, E. (2000), "Artha Rimba master violated law", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 9 No. 1.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

Artha Rimba master violated law

Artha Rimba master violated law

Indonesia's maritime authorities and shipping community yesterday expressed shock at the loss of more than 300 lives on board the wooden hulled Artha Rimba.

The fact that an old vessel, licensed to carry logs only, had so deliberately flouted the most basic of international shipping regulations was universally condemned. Bahrens T. Saragih, secretary-general of the Indonesian National Shipping Association, told Lloyd's List that the country's shipping community was in an "extreme state of shock" that such an accident had happened.

"INSA wants to express its deepest shock and concern that such a major violation of shipping regulations has taken place", he said.

As a search continued yesterday for survivors from last Saturday's sinking, officials were trying to piece together exactly what happened.

Remote area

The highly remote area in which the sinking took place meant news of the disaster only filtered through on Wednesday, four days after the event. Details of the incident are sketchy and news of the massive loss of life brought with it a mass of contradictory statements from survivors and the authorities alike. Some reports suggest the ship sank in heavy seas after springing a leak, a story put forward by Artha Rimba master Hermanto.

But other reports said the vessel sank due to the vast number of people on board, believed to be 325. Just 19 have been rescued so far.

It was confirmed by the Indonesian authorities yesterday that the Artha Rimba was licensed to carry the master and seven crew.

Captain Hermanto is now being treated under guard in hospital at Pontianak, West Kalimantan.

So why was the Artha Rimba allowed to sail on Saturday night in circumstances which amount to a complete disregard for human life, let alone basic maritime conventions?

An article in yesterday's semi-official Kompass newspaper in Jakarta, quoting an official from the regional office of the Communications Industry of West Kalimantan in Pontianak, said the vessel received a sailing permit on 4 February. It was issued by the harbour master of Sintete-Pemangkat in West Kalimantan. It is not clear why the vessel did not sail for a further 48 hours until 6 February. The permit says the Artha Rimba, 147 tons with a 280bhp HP Nissan engine, received permission to sail on the evening of 4 February. Under the column "Number of passengers" the word "Nihil" was clearly written, according to Kompass.

Kompass, quoting local officials, said all the passengers were illegal as they did not appear on the permit nor on the master's notice of departure submitted to the harbour master before the vessel sailed. The destination was Sungei Apit port in the Riau Islands. "It is clear the captain made a fatal violation of the laws", a local official was quoted as saying. "The vessel was not seaworthy as a passenger ship."

ger logging and forest products group in West Kalimantan. Mr Saragih said the company was not a member of INSA. The company has not responded to media enquiries.

Reports quote Captain Hermanto as saying most of the passengers embarked at Sengawang, a small village at the Sambar Besar river in the district of Sekura in the Sambas region. Most of the 300-plus feared dead are believed to be labourers employed by various logging companies in the Riau Islands. Captain Hermanto was quoted as saying: "I do not know whether the vessel was owned or chartered. I was told to transport the workers". The head of the group of workers was a man named as Salim, who apparently said he was a policeman from Riau Islands. Salim did not join the voyage but the figure of 325 persons was obtained from a list given by him.

Observers of the Indonesian inter-island shipping community claim that overcrowding on ferries, passenger ships and cargo carriers is endemic. And it is maintained that cargo ships which are not licensed to carry any passengers are routinely used to ferry workers around the vast archipelago.


Kompass revealed that another motor vessel, the Kanada II, was stopped by the harbourmaster of Sungei Apil in the region of Bengkalis, Riau, last Sunday because she was transporting 441 illegal passengers.

The newspaper said: "They were crowded like cattle in the ship's hold, which was opened and seen to have bamboo partitions". The harbourmaster saw that the ship, which came alongside, carried many passengers.

But on checking it was revealed the vessel was supposed to be empty.

"The Kanada II is not a passenger vessel but a cargo vessel", said Syamsul Bahri, head of the port office of Sungeipakning, on Wednesday.

The ship departed from Sintete in the Sambas region with a destination of Pekanbaru.

Kompass added that the passengers were workers returning from West Kalimantan to Riau after celebrating the holiday season in Indonesia which marks the end of Ramadan. The illegal passengers were all employees of logging companies in the region, the report said. Observers said overcrowding on vessels had been severe in the past few weeks before and around the holiday season.

"This takes place every year around Ramadan time as workers make trips home", said one. "The basic problem is that at peak travelling times around the islands there are not enough ships to get people around. This is a situation which is likely to continue in Indonesia for the foreseeable future."

Edward Ion(Lloyd's Casualty Week, Vol. 315 No. 8, 19 February 1999)

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