NASA Earth Observatory image modified by SkyTruth

Increasing Maritime Security in Indonesia


Cerulean Case Study

Increasing Maritime Security in Indonesia

The Indonesia Ocean Justice Initiative (IOJI) is an independent think-tank and influential policy advocate that supports marine governance in Indonesia, the largest island country in the world. IOJI works toward policies that promote ocean protection, sustainable use, and equitable welfare. They are using Cerulean to alert government officials when oil spills occur, and empower those whose livelihoods depend on the sea, such as small fishermen, coastal communities, and migrant workers of fisheries seafarers, with scientific data about what’s happening in their communities.

“Cerulean allows us to respond to oil spills faster, mitigating the impacts on local communities and supporting government agencies to hold those who are responsible accountable.”

Image of an oil tanker, MT AASHI sinking in the waters near Nias Island in Indonesia.
MT AASHI, a tanker carrying asphalt, sank last year near Nias Island in Indonesia. Local residents of North Nias – most of them fishermen whose livelihoods depend on the sea – suffered losses because of environmental damage caused by the spill. Image credit: North Nias Government, IOJI.

According to Cerulean findings, more slicks occur in the Indonesian Exclusive Economic Zone than in the next five countries combined. Conservatively, 536 slicks were detected between July 2020 and May 2023. Indonesian waters support an immense amount of vessel traffic, creating many opportunities for ship operators to discharge oily wastewater.

In February 2023, SkyTruth helped IOJI detect a tanker, MT AASHI, which was stranded near shore off the West coast of Nias Island, North Sumatra. Based on its trajectory, the ship had departed from a United Arab Emirates port when its hull leaked, causing the ship to sink. The vessel had been carrying asphalt, which spilled into the ocean and polluted the area as far as 70 kilometers away. The delay in handling the spill damaged the surrounding marine protected areas and biodiversity, impacting 641 fishermen who lost their livelihoods. IOJI used SkyTruth’s data and analysis to strengthen its arguments when meeting with government officials, including the Indonesian Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of the Environment.

Graph showing the count of oil slicks in the top ten countries. Indonesia has more than the next five countries combined.
Early Cerulean findings showed that the number of oil slicks appearing in satellite imagery occurred substantially more frequently in the Indonesian Exclusive Economic Zone than that of the next five countries combined. Numbers are not normalized for area or satellite observation frequency. Figure © SkyTruth.
MT AASHI shipwreck and the oil it was leaking was visible in satellite imagery on March 12 2023, over a month after the tanker sank off the coast of Nias Island in Indonesia. Figure © SkyTruth, containing satellite imagery © 2023 Planet Labs Inc.

With Cerulean’s automated detection abilities, IOJI can increase the scale and efficiency of its monitoring capacity as a civil society actor and prompt effective government responses to minimize the impacts of incidents like the MT AASHI leak.

IOJI has also done extensive research into Indonesia’s Blue Carbon Ecosystems (BCE) which play a crucial role in mitigating and adapting to climate change. The BCE’s mangroves and seagrass sequester and store carbon up to six times higher than terrestrial forests. According to IOJI, the level of existing damage and degradation to Indonesia’s BCEs is alarming, and these ecosystems face ongoing anthropogenic threats, including oil spills. With Cerulean’s help, IOJI can now track spills where these crucial ecosystems are located and urge maritime security to respond rapidly.

Indonesia’s past oil spills have been devastating to local communities and marine life. In 2009 an oil well exploded off the coast of Western Australia, spewing more than 2,500 barrels into the Timor Sea every day for 74 days. In 2018 the region experienced one of its worst environmental disasters in the Balikpapan oil spill, resulting in several deaths and irreparable damage to the shoreline, marine life, and health and livelihoods of 900,000 local inhabitants.

These cases are just a few of many. Cerulean serves as an important tool to help accomplish IOJI’s mission.

Further Information