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Indonesian Navy to continue crucial underwater mapping in 2023

Gusty Da Costa

The Indonesian Navy plans to continue mapping the country’s underwater terrain in 2023, a vital process in ensuring maritime security, setting international boundaries, protecting fisheries and enhancing navigation, among other areas. Such maps benefit many countries, thus making the effort an opportunity for international cooperation, experts say.

Underwater terrain mapping remains an urgent national priority for 2023, despite a projected 1.9% reduction in overall defense spending compared with 2022, Vice Adm. Nurhidayat, commander of the Indonesian Navy’s Hydrography and Oceanography Center, told FORUM.

“It is crucial for the safety of seafaring, for the laying of underwater cables and pipes, for the identification of conservation areas that are safe from seafaring operations, for the exploration of natural resources and the determination of tsunami direction,” said Nurhidayat, who like many Indonesians goes by a single name.

Because some mapping data relates to military operations, such as navigation and missile launches by ships and submarines, the task is best performed by the Navy, he said.
Indonesia also shares data with other countries as a member of the International Hydrographic Organization and three regional hydrographic groups. “Regional coordination between national hydrography institutions can enhance seafaring, border security and natural resource exploration,” Nurhidayat said.

Underwater mapping of Indonesia’s continental shelf helps determine the nation’s boundaries, Connie Rahakundini Bakrie, a defense analyst and author of the book “Defending Indonesia,” told FORUM. For example, Indonesia and the Philippines are in talks to settle their continental shelf delimitation, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs reported.

“Underwater mapping enables us to study how all geological factors and geographical features interact and to learn their potential,” Rahakundini said. Information about potential gas fields and fisheries, and the installation of fiber optic connections is of value for Indonesia, as well as other nations.

Accurate maps are also vital for search and rescue operations. (Pictured: Indonesian Navy officers conduct search and rescue operations off the coast of Jakarta in 2021.)
“Conducting underwater warfare will also benefit from underwater mapping,” Rahakundini said. “National security is, therefore, closely related to this issue.”

The mapping helps the Indonesian Navy locate “underwater fields” for use in combat, including for reconnaissance and submarine camouflage, Soleman Ponto, former chief of the Indonesian Armed Forces’ Strategic Intelligence Agency, told FORUM.

During mapping, measurements also are taken of plankton and water salinity, which are indicators of fisheries and can assist in regulating fishing and maintaining fish populations, Nurhidayat said.

“In addition to fisheries,” Rahakundini added, “all marine life can be better understood and protected to control the environmental impact of underwater exploitation.”


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