World

Singaporean boat captain charged in Indonesia

JAKARTA: A Singaporean boat captain has been charged in a Tanjung Pinang District Court, seven months after he was first arrested for trespassing in Indonesian waters.

Ricky Tan Poh Hui was at the helm of the Malaysia-flagged vessel, the Seven Seas Conqueress, on Aug 20 last year, when he was stopped by the Indonesian navy - purportedly in waters off Bintan island.

Tan's three-member crew and nine passengers, mainly recreational anglers from Singapore, were released 12 days later, but the 45-year-old captain remained in the custody of the navy ever since his arrest.

Yesterday was the first time Tan appeared in court to face charges for entering Indonesian waters without permission, and failing to maintain navigational equipment on board his boat, which is required under Indonesian shipping laws.

The equipment in the second charge refers to the automatic identification system (AIS) of a vessel, which tracks its position at sea.

Prosecutors said yesterday that the AIS of the Seven Seas Conqueress was "not functioning" when naval officers were inspecting the boat after it was stopped.

Tan did not take a plea but to expedite the hearing, his lawyer asked the court to proceed to hear evidence from witnesses.

Captain Azi Wardana, the commander of the naval patrol that first spotted the Seven Seas Conqueress on radar, said the vessel was detected in Indonesian waters off Bintan and that Tan had tried to evade the navy by attempting to return to Singapore waters.

He also accused Tan of lying to his officers once the boat was stopped.

A member of Tan's crew, however, testified that their boat had broken down earlier.

Tan denied that he had tried to evade the naval patrol and said the AIS on the vessel was never turned off.

"I did not try to escape when approached by the navy," Tan told the court. "

The hearing resumes next week.

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