This article is part of Conceptualization of “Maritime Security” in Southeast Asia, a series of analyses produced by experts convened by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

Maritime security in Indonesia’s national language

“Keamanan Maritim,” or “Keamanan Laut” are the words used in Indonesian to mean “maritime security.” When translated directly into English, “keamanan” means “security,” “maritim” means “maritime,” and “laut” means sea or ocean. Therefore, two terms translate directly as “maritime security,” “ocean security,” or “sea security,” and are used interchangeably in the Indonesian context. Presently, these two terms are the only ones used by the government to describe maritime security.

Indonesian also uses the expressions “bahari” and “nusantara” to describe its maritime archipelagic geography. The former comes from Arabic meaning “oceanic” whereas the latter is from Old Javanese meaning “islands-in-between”. Thus President Sukarno employed the concept of “Wawasan Bahari” (Oceanic Outlook) as a part of his strategic discourse. President Suharto similarly used “Wawasan Nusantara” (Archipelago Outlook).

Indonesia’s definition of “maritime security”

The Indonesian Government does not possess an official definition in English for the term “Maritime Security,” nor in Bahasa Indonesia for the term “Keamanan Maritim,” nor “Keamanan Laut.” In official documents, the government alludes to the state’s ability to mitigate threats that emanate from within and outside the country, as well as Indonesia’s ability to promote regional peace and stability. This is published under Presidential Decree No. 16/2017 on Indonesian Ocean Policy (Peraturan Presiden No.16 Tahun 2017 tentang Kebijakan Kelautan Indonesia).[1]

Presidential Decree No.16/2017 serves as the basis for Indonesia’s Ocean Policy. It outlines the five main pillars that are considered important to develop Indonesia’s maritime domain and marks maritime security as being one of those considerations.

Prior to the issuance of this presidential decree, each ministry or agency would come up with its own analysis of what constitutes maritime security. This would sometimes create diverging perspectives to tackle maritime security issues, as each ministry and agency preferred to use their own understanding and practical abilities in mitigating maritime security issues. While it did not define maritime security, the decree did provide for a common conceptual understanding. The understanding that maritime security, maritime defense, and maritime safety must synergize to achieve the desired effect that is to foster a strong, effective maritime law enforcement agency, and strong maritime culture.

Indonesia’s key documents for defining and understanding maritime security

1) Presidential Decree No. 16/2017 on Indonesian Ocean Policy[2]

2) Law No. 32/2014 on the Sea[3] – Contains provisions on the establishment of Bakamla (Badan Keamanan Laut), as Indonesia’s National Coast Guard.

3.) Coordinating Ministry’s Decree No. 128/2019 on Maritime Diplomacy White Book[4] – Contains provisions on the various maritime security issues faced by Indonesia.

4) Law No. 17/2008 on Maritime Navigation – Provides requirements for navigational safety and security. Contains provisions on the establishment of Kesatuan Penjaga Laut dan Pantai under the Ministry of Transportation

5) Presidential Decree No. 81/2005 on Badan Koordinasi Keamanan Laut[5] – Created Bakorkamla (Badan Koordinasi Keamanan Laut), Indonesian Marine Security Coordination Agency

6) Law No. 6/1996 on Indonesian Territorial Waters[6] – Replacing Law No. 4 Rev./1960 on Indonesian Territorial Waters; The term security is still married with defense, as was the custom back in the New Order era (Pertahanan-Keamanan). All it mentions of defense and security alludes to the safety of navigation, and the unity/security of the state.

Elements of Indonesia’s approach to maritime security. Environmental protection, mariner safety, fisheries management, resource management (other than fisheries), counter-terrorism, law enforcement, naval operations, deterrence?

The Indonesian government does not specify which elements make up maritime security. Under Coordinating Ministry’s Decree No. 128/2019 on Maritime Diplomacy White Book, the government has listed various maritime threats and challenges that were divided further into two spheres, traditional and non-traditional. However, these are maritime challenges that are to be solved through diplomacy, hence the Maritime Diplomacy White Book. The decree does not describe what elements constitute maritime security.

National regulations, decrees, or instructions would only mention the importance of security, whether it is on the maritime domain, or on maritime navigation, but these did not discuss what could be considered as maritime security.

Evolution in Indonesia’s usage of the term maritime security

Indonesia’s conceptual understanding of maritime security has evolved from the understanding of security and safety of navigation into a more holistic approach. During the New Order period, the government was focus on development and security ashore and therefore maritime concerns were neglected.

Most of the definitions or descriptions used by the government to describe maritime security have been formulated during Jokowi’s administration. A good example of this change can be seen in the contrast provided Law No. 17/2008 on Maritime Navigation which was ratified during the administration of Jokowi’s predecessor President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.[7] This legal document is concerned mainly with the issue of security and safety of navigation and contains the first provision on the establishment of a national coast guard. This 200-page law never mentions maritime security (keamanan maritim) but has over one hundred references to security (keamanan) in the context of navigational safety and security (Keselamatan dan Keamanan Pelayaran). It is concerned with the safety and security of crews, vessels, anchorages, and ports. Proper infrastructure, navigation buoys, maps, radars, radio, and other supporting infrastructure are also considered components in security and safety of navigation.

There was one law during the New Order period that alludes to the use of the term security within the maritime context, this was written under Law No. 6/1996 on Indonesian Territorial Waters. As was the custom back in the New Order era, the term security would always use in conjunction with the term defense. Hence, you would always see that defense and security are considered to be interchangeable. This was born due to the insecurity of the New Order regime that the biggest insecurity for Indonesia would come from its domestic population. Hence, the law stresses the fact that no foreign intervention via our territorial waters shall be tolerated should it seek to conduct propaganda or espionage activities.

Additional context for Indonesia

Indonesia’s strategic culture has been heavily influenced by its experience during the Revolutionary War of 1945 –1949 and the subsequent monopoly of power by the Army (TNI-AD), especially during the New Order era. Hence, security assessment by the authorities tends to view that the most viable threat to the stability of the nation comes from the domestic population.[8] In line with keeping the revolutionary spirit alive, the military has actively espoused a strategic culture that is designed to curtail any form of dissent from the population and to promote active participation from the population in any conflict scenario. In this sense, the military and the government have for a long time neglected maritime security, as they have focused more on land-based issues. This was apparent during the New Order era under President Suharto, who entered political life from the Army, where he prioritized terrestrial development rather than maritime development (e.g. agriculture instead of aquaculture, land transportation instead of maritime, and army instead of navy.) Only during the post-Suharto Reformasi era, was Indonesia able to look back at its fallacies and begun to elevate maritime security as a vital element of the state.

[1] Peraturan Presiden No.16 Tahun 2017 tentang Kebijakan Kelautan Indonesia. (2017).

[2] Ibid

[3] Undang-undang No. 32 Tahun 2014 tentang Kelautan. (2014).

[4] Kepmenko No.128 Tahun 2019 tentang Buku Putih Diplomasi Maritim. (2019)

[5] Peraturan Presiden No. 81 Tahun 2005 tentang Badan Koordinasi Keamanan Laut. (2005).

[6] Undang-undang No. 6 Tahun 1996 tentang Perairan Indonesia. (1996).

[7] UU No. 17 Tahun 2008 tentang Pelayaran. (2008).

[8] Sulaiman, Yohanes. (2019). “What Threat? Leadership, Strategic Culture, and Indonesian Foreign Policy in the South China Sea.” Asian Politics & Policy, Volume 11, Number 4, Pages 606–622.

About Gilang Kembara

Gilang Kembara is a Researcher at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Jakarta, Indonesia.