8 November 2022

IOJI and SkyTruth Partnership: Advocacy and Technology Collaboration to Protect Indonesian Waters

IOJI and SkyTruth collaborate to detect oil pollution by vessels passing through Indonesian waters. The collaboration aims to advance policies, enforcement, and public awareness regarding maritime issues in Indonesia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Satellites provide an accurate overview of the quality and condition of a water body. Precise measurements include water quality, light attenuation, chlorophyll, turbidity, benthic habitat types, and oil spills. 

Lately, the satellite industry has rapidly accelerated, aligning with efforts to achieve various Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly those related to environmental objectives.

This is also the case in Indonesia. Maximizing satellite utilization can aid the government in assessing potential violations of national sovereignty, environmental concerns, and human rights within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), in this context, Indonesia.

Collaborative Detection

The Cerulean detection shows an oil spill (green) approaching a Marine National Park (purple).

Towards the end of 2022, the Indonesia Ocean Justice Initiative (IOJI) and SkyTruth are collaborating to detect oil pollution caused by vessels passing through Indonesia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (ZEE).

This detection effort also utilizes Cerulean technology, a new innovation from SkyTruth. Cerulean is equipped with an Automatic Identification System (AIS) supplied by their partner, Global Fishing Watch. This system helps Cerulean track vessels worldwide and link them to specific pollution incidents.

Cerulean aids IOJI in detecting the movements of these maritime polluters and subsequently informs law enforcement agencies of their findings.

SkyTruth has a substantial history of detecting and tracking pollution in Indonesian waters. In March 2019, analyst Bjorn Bergman discovered an incident off the coast of Sumatra. At that time, a cement carrier vessel named “Perkasa” was detected disposing of oily wastewater.

In the same year, Cerulean discovered a 33-kilometer-long oil spill in the Makassar Strait, apparently originating from the Indonesian-flagged bulk cargo vessel “Lumoso Aman.”

More recently, Tatiana Summerall from SkyTruth discovered a slick spanning 94 kilometers in the Java Sea. This finding serves as a reminder that the threat of oil pollution to Indonesian waters continues to expand and endure.


Science and Strong Policies at Sea

Oil spills in water bodies have a cascading negative impact, reaching the coastal areas. Spills directly affect marine organisms and, if not promptly addressed, will reduce fishermen’s income.

The inherent nature of oil spills—being liquid and spreading in water—sometimes complicates estimating the duration of the economic impact following a spill event.

This is why a combination of strong scientific understanding and robust policies is needed to clean up oil spills, assess pollution impacts, impose sanctions and fines on offenders, and aid ocean recovery.

From a sovereignty perspective, oil spill incidents can involve two or more countries and local communities in class action lawsuits before the legal system.

For instance, on March 19, 2021, the Federal Court in Sydney, Australia ruled in favor of a lawsuit brought by 15,481 seaweed farmers and fishermen from East Nusa Tenggara (NTT). Federal Court Justice David Yates stated that the oil spill, originating from PTT Exploration & Production (PTTEP) Australasia, had materially harmed the plaintiffs.

“We are thrilled that IOJI can turn [information about oil spills] into actions by the government and industry players to collectively eliminate oil pollution in Indonesian waters,” SkyTruth wrote on its official website.

For the complete press release, you can read it here.

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