US-Indonesia Maritime Security in the Sulu-Sulawesi Sea

Executive Summary

Sulu-Sulawesi Sea

This policy paper examines the challenges and prospects for enhanced policy cooperation between the United States and Indonesia on maritime security in the Sulu-Sulawesi Sea, reflecting broader issues in bilateral maritime security cooperation. The findings are informed by the Indonesia-United States Track 1.5 Dialogue on Ocean Security in the Sulu-Sulawesi Sea held in Jakarta on April 23, 2024, which brought together representatives from government, academia, the private sector, and civil society. The project aims to promote holistic and integrated policy solutions to support sustainable development, reduce geopolitical instability, and enhance resilience against maritime security challenges in the Sulu-Sulawesi Sea and beyond. This initiative was supported by the Hollings Center, the University of Strathclyde, the Indonesian Institute of Advanced Studies (INADIS), and Universitas Indonesia.

Policy Recommendations

Maritime Security:
  • The United States should increase resources and funding for regional Coast Guard deployments and partnerships, particularly with Indonesia.
  • To bolster Indonesian maritime domain awareness, the US should fund Indonesia’s Maritime Security Agency (Bakamla) and provide drones. Expansion of SeaVision and IPMDA information sharing is recommended, along with resources for enhancing land- and sea-based ISR capabilities.
  • Indonesia should centralize maritime law enforcement under Bakamla.
  • The US should continue supporting Indonesia’s Maritime Training Center in Batam to improve maritime law enforcement capacity.
  • Increased frequency of Coast Guard training exercises between the US and Indonesia is recommended, including participation in INDOMALPHI trilateral patrols.
  • US-Indonesia naval and Coast Guard exercises should be conducted in less provocative regions like the Sulu-Sulawesi Sea to avoid escalating tensions with China.
  • The US should encourage Southeast Asian states to resolve maritime boundary disputes and support ASEAN’s capacity for maritime security.
Environmental Security:
  • Peaceful negotiations among Indonesia and neighboring states for pending maritime boundary agreements are crucial for marine conservation.
  • The US should assist with technology transfer to detect destructive and IUU fishing in the Sulu-Sulawesi Sea using remote sensing, satellite imagery, machine learning, and DNA analysis.
  • Cooperation with the private sector is essential to improve certification and traceability of marine products and combat destructive fishing practices.
  • Engage various stakeholders, including Indigenous Peoples, small-scale fishers, women, and private sector representatives, in the co-design and co-management of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).
  • Innovate climate finance mechanisms, including marine insurance, to complement existing ones.
  • Close collaboration to protect children from climate crisis impacts, which can incentivize maritime crime. Study climate change impacts on maritime security and develop strategies to increase climate resilience and protect vulnerable populations.
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