Indonesia-Australia’s Bilateral Maritime Cooperation: A Brief Reflection and Future Moves

By: Edi Suharto, Yuni Suryati, Rukmini Tri Setiati, Fahmi Jamaludin, Nuradi Noeri.

Indonesia and Australia, two neighboring countries that share geographical proximities, surrounded by the sea and most of their territories (1/3rd) are also covered by sea. Maritime cooperation, hence, has become essential part and dynamism of the two countries cooperation. Maritime cooperation of both countries covers areas such as maritime security, marine environment management, maritime safety, marine resources management, and combating IUU Fishing. Despite the wide range of cooperation areas, both countries do not have an “umbrella” that enables them to better coordinate, synergize as well as to avoid duplication of work or cooperation. This article will focus on maritime cooperation of both countries, priorities from both perspectives and future moves needed to improve maritime cooperation so that both sides could attain better benefits.

Indonesia and Australia view that maritime cooperation is important for both countries. However, Indonesia and Australia may have different priorities in their engagements to the above five bilateral existing maritime cooperation. From our discussion with our Australian Embassy’s Colleagues it is said that at the current situation, Australia prioritizes three pillars for their maritime cooperation with Indonesia, namely: maritime security, marine environment management and maritime safety. From Indonesia’s perspective, cooperation with Australia should give value added and advancement in managing marine resources and in support of the Global Maritime Fulcrum, especially in developing its maritime infrastructure and connectivity.

The cooperation and in particular capacity building or technical cooperation that have been conducted so far, among others, Indonesia Transport Safety Assistance Package (ITSAP) program, regular training of officials from the Ministry of Maritime and Fisheries of Indonesia. Australia has also agreed to strengthen its cooperation with Indonesia on combating illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing practices, and to engage at the operational level and promote sustainable fisheries governance.

To better facilitate maritime cooperation between Indonesia and Australia, there are several policy options to be considered.

First, establish regular bilateral meeting on maritime cooperation. Through this special bilateral meeting, issues and cooperation under bilateral maritime cooperation is discussed and elaborated. This meeting will enable both parties to synchronize programs and action plan, monitor the existing work or progress as well as evaluate certain programs for future improvement. However, this mechanism may have financial and human resources implications.

Second, Utilize the existing bilateral mechanism or commission to embrace all maritime issues. This mechanism could be executed, for example, through creating new branch of working group of maritime cooperation cluster. This option, although it looks simple, it may be complex in implementation.

Third, establish bilateral Memorandum of Understanding or agreement on enhancing and synergizing bilateral maritime cooperation between Indonesia and Australia. This MoU or agreement should covers field and priorities of cooperation, focal point of certain cooperation, and mechanism of planning, executing and monitoring systems. In short it will serve as foundation or umbrella of bilateral maritime cooperation between Indonesia and Australia so that the cooperation could be efficient, targeted and at the same time avoid duplication.

Out of the above three options, our group would like to recommend that the establishment of MOU or agreement is important to be an umbrella of bilateral maritime cooperation between Indonesia and Australia, before it further grows and the issue become more complex. This first step may need to be safeguarded by the establishment of an institution referring to the first or the second options based on our modalities considerations.

In conclusion and in line with President Jokowi’s Global Maritime Strategy it is relevant to quote Prime Minister Turnbull saying that: ”Indonesia and Australia should increasingly define similarities and complementariness more than differences”.


*The above article is constructed based on our informal discussion with our colleagues from Australian Embassy in Jakarta (Erin Kelly, Negah Rahmani, and Scott Bradford).

                                                                                                                           Jakarta, 12 September 2016


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