This article is part of the ‘Blue Security’ project led by La Trobe Asia, University of Western Australia Defence and Security Institute, Griffith Asia Institute, UNSW Canberra and the Asia-Pacific Development, Diplomacy and Defence Dialogue (AP4D). Views expressed are solely of its author/s and not representative of the Maritime Exchange, the Australian Government, or any collaboration partner country government.

What are the maritime governance priorities for Indonesia?

In 2014 the Indonesian government announced its “Global Maritime Fulcrum” (GMF) vision. This organizing policy included five main pillars that are central to Indonesia’s maritime governance and development: (1) maritime culture, (2) maritime resources, (3) maritime infrastructure and connectivity, (4) maritime diplomacy, and (5) maritime defense force.[1] This generated a certain level of excitement regarding the potential to advance Indoensia’s domestic maritime prosperity and international partnerships, but most observers now consider the GMF as a “dead” policy. The Indonesian government has not followed through with the GMF as a maritime doctrine or grand strategy, especially since the beginning of President Joko (‘Jokowi’) Widodo’s second presidency.[2] Nevertheless, as it is the most complex articulation of Indonesia’s maritime governance priorities in recent years, it remains an important document.

In 2017, the government expanded on the GMF vision through the enaction of the Presidential Regulation on Indonesian Maritime Policy which has seven pillars: (1) maritime resources and human resources, (2) maritime security and safety, (3) maritime governance and institutions, (4) maritime economy and infrastructure, (5) maritime spatial management and environment, (6) maritime culture and (7) maritime diplomacy.[3] Since then, the government began issuing a Maritime Policy Action Plan every five years – first in 2017 and then in 2022[4] – outlining the priority programs for each pillar within the five years. These seven pillars can be considered the current Indonesia’s maritime governance policy.

What does Indonesia see as the most critical maritime security challenges?

Due to its large maritime territory and location at the confluence of two oceans – the Indian and Pacific – Indonesia faces all kinds of maritime security challenges. Of these, the South China Sea disputes are regarded as most critical. Despite Indonesia asserting that it is a non-claimant state in the dispute, parts of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the Natuna Sea are unilaterally claimed by China within its “nine-dash line”. Since 2016, China’s incursions into Indonesia’s EEZ have been increasing, and Indonesia has responded by expanding its naval presence in and around Natuna and supporting the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruling in 2016 that decrees that China’s claims have no lawful effect.[5]

A second critical challenge for Indonesia is illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. The government paid particular attention to IUU fishing during Susi Pudjiastuti’s appointment as minister of marine affairs and fisheries in 2014-2019, when it engaged in a high-profile crackdown on IUU fishing.[6] However, the government shifted away from this policy after Susi was no longer minister. Her successor, Edhy Prabowo, was arrested after one year in office for allegedly receiving bribes in the awarding of export licenses for lobster seeds. The current minister, Sakti Wahyu Trenggono, also no longer employs hard approaches to IUU fishing akin to those of former minister Susi.[7]

What are the maritime governance strengths of Indonesia?

Despite its “death”, the GMF has laid the foundation for improving Indonesia’s maritime governance. For example, the Indonesian government established the Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs in 2014, which in 2019 was renamed as the Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs and Investments (Kemenko Marves). Previously, the government did not have a ministry to coordinate policies in maritime affairs. This unusual, high-level, coordinating body provides Indonesia a maritime governance strength not found in other states.

Another of Indonesia’s maritime governance strengths is the depth of maritime governance-related agencies. Kemenko Marves coordinates the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (KKP) and the Ministry of Transportation’s Directorate General of Sea Transportation. Meanwhile, an older ministry, the Coordinating Ministry for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs (Kemenko Polhukam), coordinates maritime security-related agencies: the Indonesian Navy (TNI-AL), the Maritime Security Agency (Bakamla), and the Marine Police (Polair). Other maritime governance-related agencies include the Ministry of Finance’s Directorate General of Customs and Excise, as well as twenty-one additional agencies that have maritime-related duties/authorities.

What are the most significant maritime governance capacity gaps of Indonesia?

There are two major maritime governance capacity gaps of Indonesia: One is political and the other is operational. In terms of political gaps, there are the issues of overlapping roles and responsibilities among the various maritime governance agencies, strategic cultures, as well as the vulnerability of maritime governance to changing domestic political priorities.

These issues are illustrated by the evolving role of the Maritime Security Agency (Bakamla). Previously named the Maritime Security Coordinating Agency (Bakorkamla) with a more coordinating role, it was renamed in 2014 to enable a more leading role in maritime patrols. Despite the change, the Navy (TNI-AL) seems unwilling to renounce its long-standing internal security function, while Bakamla still struggles to develop the capabilities needed to lead maritime security.

Some scholars explain the persistence of these gaps by referencing the role of Indonesia’s strategic culture. In particular, they argue that the historical dominance of the Army in Indonesia, coupled with a blurred distinction between “defense” which is sovereignty protection and “security” which is law enforcement in Indonesia’s governance sector, has led the Navy to sustain its dominant role in Indonesia’s maritime security. Meanwhile, Indonesia lacks long-standing familiarity with the concept of a coast guard as a dedicated civilian maritime security agency that has clearly delineated roles vis-a-vis other agencies.[8]

Another political gap stems from the vulnerability of maritime governance to changing domestic political priorities. For example, the “death” of the GMF has been linked to the rigidity of Indonesia’s bureaucracy and a shift in focus toward economic affairs, investments, and infrastructure development.[9] The Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs has also been a victim of this changing priorities: In 2019, it was given the additional function of coordinating investments (hence the renaming to the Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs and Investment). The minister, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, has since then been less devoted to the maritime function and more preoccupied with the investments portion of his portfolio.

In terms of operational capacity gaps, Indonesia lacks an adequate number of warships, patrol vessels, and sensors compared to its large maritime territory. The Navy operates seven frigates, four submarines, 25 corvettes, 23 patrol craft, 91 patrol boats, and some support vessels. Bakamla operates ten patrol vessels and several small patrol boats. The Indonesian Sea and Coast Guard Unit (KPLP) operates seven patrol crafts and 30 patrol boats.[10] Most of these vessels are also severely lacking in terms of modernization.[11]  This is not enough to patrol Indonesia’s large sea area.

What are the priority areas for international cooperation that would improve maritime governance capacity in Indonesia?

The political gaps in Indonesia’s maritime governance capacity are difficult to address through international cooperation. However, the operational capacity gaps can be improved through cooperation.  Focusing on four priority areas for international cooperation would benefit Indonesia: information and intelligence exchange and fusion, procurement of equipment, capacity building for personnel skills, and industry cooperation.

Regarding information and intelligence, Indonesia needs to continue and improve the exchange and fusion cooperation with neighboring countries, regional organizations, and international partners, as well as multilateral and regional initiatives such as the ReCAAP, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), and Singapore’s Information Fusion Centre (IFC).

For the second area, Indonesia needs to improve international cooperation related to the procurement of warships, patrol vessels, radars, and other equipment needed to fulfill maritime security roles. The country desperately needs critical technologies for performing maritime patrols, early warning of maritime security threats, and other roles more effectively.

Indonesia also needs to continue dialogue-based cooperation for confidence-building measures with other countries and to improve practical cooperation involving the deployment of assets at sea or offshore, including information-sharing initiatives and field exercises, or other related capacity-building exercises to improve real maritime governance capacities at sea.

Finally, as a fourth priority, Indonesia needs to continue and improve cooperation to develop its shipbuilding and ship repair industry capacity and other areas of Indonesia’s domestic maritime economy such as the education and training of engineers, transfers of naval technologies, research and development for shipbuilding, and other forms of industry cooperation.

How can the existing regional and minilateral security frameworks contribute to maritime governance in Indonesia?

Indonesia should use the existing regional and minilateral security frameworks to continue and improve the existing maritime security cooperation to improve its governance capacity. Indonesia has already been involved in maritime governance cooperation in various regional and minilateral security frameworks. Some of the regional cooperation have been within Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) frameworks: the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) Inter-Sessional Meeting on Maritime Security, the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) and ADMM-Plus Expert Working Group on Maritime Security, as well as the ASEAN Maritime Forum (AMF) and Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum (EAMF). However, as Agastia (2021) finds, cooperation within these regional frameworks is largely dialogue-based, while practical cooperation remains limited.[12] Hence, many scholars suggest more progress may be available by focusing on minilateral frameworks for maritime security.

In terms of minilateral frameworks, Indonesia has conducted coordinated patrols, naval exercises, and other forms of maritime security cooperation with neighboring countries and external powers. Supriyanto persuasively argues that the existing frameworks, such as maritime patrol arrangements among ASEAN littoral states in Malacca Strait and Celebes Sea, can provide a model for cooperation in the South China Sea. Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam can initiate similar patrols in the South China Sea where their maritime boundaries are contiguous.[13] The recently concluded Indonesia-Vietnam EEZ agreement may foster the advance of these kinds of arrangements.[14] Similarly, Indonesia’s recent ratification of the Indonesia-Singapore Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA)[15] should lead to the continuation and improvement of joint military exercises between both countries and third parties.[16]

[1] Indonesian: “Poros Maritim Dunia” (PMD). President Jokowi presented the vision at the 9th East Asia Summit in 2014. See “Pidato Presiden RI Joko Widodo Pada KTT ke-9 Asia Timur, di Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, 13 November 2014”, Indonesian Cabinet Secretariat:

[2] For example, see Evan Laksmana (8 November 2019), “Indonesia as “Global Maritime Fulcrum”: A Post-Mortem Analysis”, AMTI CSIS: and Sean Quirk and John Bradford (October 2015), “Maritime Fulcrum: A New U.S. Opportunity to Engage Indonesia,” Issues & Insights. 15(9), Pacific Forum: Maritime Fulcrum: A New U.S. Opportunity to Engage Indonesia

[3] See Presidential Regulation No. 16 Year 2017 on Indonesian Maritime Policy:

[4] See the first Indonesia’s Maritime Policy Action Plan, which was for the 2016-2019 period and published along with the 2017 Presidential Regulation:, and the second one, for the 2021-2025 period and published in 2022:

[5] In terms of the PCA ruling, Indonesia has sent a note verbale to the United Nations Secretary-General in 2020 to reiterate its support for the ruling. See the note verbale here:

[6] See “Ini Jumlah Kapal yang Ditenggelamkan Susi Selama Menjabat Menteri Kelautan dan Perikanan”, Kompas (7 October 2019):

[7] See “KKP Melawan IUU Fishing Melalui PIT dan Pengawasan Terintegrasi”, Antara News (5 June 2023):

[8] For example, see Muhamad Arif and Yandry Kurniawan (2018), “Strategic Culture and Indonesian Maritime Security”, Asia & the Pacific Policy Studies5(1), 77-89; and Muhamad Arif (2019), “The Navy-Coast Guard Nexus and the Nature of Indonesian Maritime Security Governance”, in Ian Bowers and Swee Lean Collin Koh, Grey and White Hulls: An International Analysis of the Navy-Coastguard Nexus, Palgrave Macmillan, 109-131.

[9] Laksmana, loc. cit.

[10] See International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) (2023), The Military Balance 2023, London: IISS, pp. 255-257.

[11] See Iis Gindarsah and Adhi Priamarizki (2021), “Explaining Indonesia’s Under-Balancing: The Case of the Modernisation of the Air Force and the Navy”, Journal of Asian Security and International Affairs8(3), 391-412.

[12] See I Gusti Bagus Dharma Agastia (2021), “Maritime Security Cooperation within the ASEAN Institutional Framework: A Gradual Shift Towards Practical Cooperation”, JAS (Journal of ASEAN Studies)9(1).

[13] See Ristian Atriandi Supriyanto (2023), “Indonesia and Maritime Security Cooperation in Southeast Asia: A Study of Four Maritime Areas”, in John F. Bradford, Jane Chan, Stuart Kaye, Clive Schofield, and Geoffrey Till, Maritime Cooperation and Security in the Indo-Pacific Region: Essays in Honour of Sam Bateman, Brill, 364-385.

[14] See “Indonesia, Vietnam to Enhance Bilateral, Regional Cooperations”, Indonesia’s Cabinet Secretariat (22 December 2022):

[15] See “Undang-Undang Republik Indonesia Nomor 3 Tentang Pengesahan Perjanjian Antara Pemerintah Republik Indonesia dan Pemerintah Republik Singapura Tentang Kerja Sama Pertahanan (Agreement Between the Government of the Republic of Indonesia and the Government of the Republic of Singapore on Defence Cooperation)”, Indonesia’s House of Representatives (3 January 2023):

[16] See Ristian Atriandi Supriyanto (1 February 2023), “Maritime Insecurity and Diminishing Resilience in Southeast Asia: The Case for Minilateralism”, IDSS Paper No. 012/2023, RSIS:

About Tangguh Chairil

Tangguh Chairil is currently a faculty member of the Department of International Relations at Bina Nusantara University (Binus), Jakarta, Indonesia. His scientific discipline is International Relations studies, with focus on Security Studies. He teaches courses on security studies and foreign policy. His research fields include defense and military studies, with security issues in Southeast Asia, particularly Indonesia, as his center of interest.