IMPACT STORY #2: PT SIFSO and USAID Boost Traceability and Safety at Sea in Indonesian Fisheries

Indonesian boat captain using the Pointrek mobile device to record and transmit fish catch data. – Credit: USAID Oceans

Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing is a significant threat to fisheries, fishing industry workers, and communities throughout Southeast Asia and to seafood consumers around the world. But USAID and its partners have led the development of new tracking technology that will curb the practice by shedding light on fish catch data and delivering greater insights and communications to fishers throughout the region.


Over 5 years, the USAID Oceans and Fisheries Partnership (USAID Oceans) supported the development of  seven new and innovative electronic catch documentation and traceability (eCDT) technology systems that have tracked more than 4 million pounds of legal and sustainable seafood products within the seafood supply chain, representing a value of approximately US$20 million. USAID Oceans partnered with leading local technology firms in Southeast Asia to advance the development and adoption of the eCDT technologies to verify seafood legality and sustainability – deterring IUU fishing practices and allowing consumers to knowingly purchase legal seafood products.

In 2018, USAID Oceans partnered with the Indonesian technology company, PT SIFSO, and Inmarsat Global Limited to equip over 250 fishing vessels with Pointrek onboard satellite systems for real-time electronic voice and data exchange while at sea, to help reduce illegal fishing, support fishers to monitor and share fish stocks, and enable captains to ensure safer life at sea. This partnership increased technology companies’ interest in the fishing sector, expanded the marketplace of available eCDT solutions for the public and private sectors, and brought new lower-cost, user-friendly traceability technologies to smaller fishing vessels throughout Indonesia.

The Challenge: Demonstrating the business value for VMS and eCDT systems for small to medium commercial fishing vessels  

Globally there is concern around the depletion of fisheries resources and a push for an increase in accountability and responsibility to protect and conserve these resources. In Southeast Asia, it is extremely important to ensure this sector is sustainably managed, as almost 80% of the 40 million people engaged in capture fisheries globally are from the region.

There are also increasing customer and government demands for traceability and transparency of the seafood consumed in key markets Demands also include the ability to monitor the treatment of workers involved in producing seafood and new technologies to trace wide-ranging fisheries activity.

The government of Indonesia estimates illegal fishing has had a significant impact in lost revenue and lost livelihoods. Indonesia led global tuna landings from 2011 to 2017. With over 17,500 islands, it is a major challenge for government and industry to monitor and trace fishing vessels and supply chains as the essential first step in tackling illegal fishing and implementing sustainable fisheries management.

Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) technology is a common monitoring and enforcement tool used by government authorities and fleet owners globally, including in Indonesia, to monitor vessel locations and activities. The technology can be an important part of an effective eCDT system to capture accurate tracking data on where the fish was harvest and first transported to port.

However, VMS systems are primarily designed for, and deployed on, large commercial fishing vessels that are required by law to adopt the systems. And many countries, including Indonesia, do not require small and medium fishing vessels to use these systems. Also, many VMS systems only track location and do not allow for the submission of catch data, nor do they offer ship-to-shore communications that would allow captain and crew to talk to families and owners.

Therefore, there is limited reason for most small and medium-sized commercial fishing vessels to adopt VMS systems. and there is limited alternative, practical, cost-effective, and durable technologies suited for these size fishing vessels. Therefore, many small and medium-scale commercial fishing vessels do not employ traceability systems which, ultimately bars them from accessing higher-value markets that require traceability data.

The Solution: Enabling two-communication to VMS providing tangible business and safety benefits to fishing vessel owners, captains and crews

To address the lack of availability of eCDT technologies for small to medium-scale commercial vessels, USAID Oceans conducted partnership assessments, led by Resonance, across Southeast Asia to identify and map potential partners to help scale and sustain eCDT systems which, in turn, support sustainable fisheries management across the region.

In Indonesia, USAID Oceans then partnered with PT. Sisfo, a reputable technology provider, to support the improvement of the eCDT system, specifically expanding the deployment of their Pointrek VMS application. Unlike traditional VMS technology that typically only provides one-way data exchange and location tracking, Pointrek was customized through USAID Oceans’ support to also enable a variety of capabilities, including at-seafood traceability data capture and transmission, labor reporting, geofencing, emergency response and two-way ship-to- shore communication.

The Pointrek VMS system is a web-based application that connects via Inmarsat’s satellite networks to monitor the movement of vessels, including data such as speed, heading, distance, weather information and two-way communications. The system provides real-time data via a mobile tablet, installed onboard. The system offers also offers ship to shore communications through onboard Wi-Fi to connected mobile devices via text message, email, and conventional SMS technology.

Thru the partnership, USAID Oceans, PT Sifso and Inmarsat equipped more than 250 fishing vessels with Pointrek VMS systems. Following installation, USAID Oceans conducted trainings with two tuna processing and fishing companies, PT. Nutrindo Fresfood International and PT. Sari Usaha Mandiri, to stimulate the use of the technology. With the transponders, these fishing vessels are now able to submit eCDT data at-sea, and also communicate with business partners and family members onshore via mobile applications connected with the Pointek device.

The Impact: Partnership demonstrates the value of integrating communications and eCDT into VMS systems for small to medium commercial fishing vessels in Indonesia 

“The advantage of using Pointrek technology extends beyond obtaining fisheries data, tracking fishing vessels and gaining more financial profit. What is most important, “is the human welfare component — people can now connect everywhere — sea to land — land to sea — boat to boat — while at sea, fishers and boat crew can connect to their families, families can monitor their husbands, boat captain can communicate with vessel owner and owners can monitor whereabouts and what-about of the fishing vessel in real time 24/7.” – Nirwan Harahap, Chief Executive Officer of PT Sisfo

USAID Oceans and PT Sifso demonstrated that eCDT systems, such as Pointrek, can enable real-time electronic catch data reporting and internal fleet monitoring and management for small to medium commercial fishing vessels in Indonesia.  The partnership also demonstrated the value of  the two-way communication from boat to shore and vice versa, as well as text/SMS messaging and email through onboard Wi-Fi, to drive adoption by fleet owners.

Seafood companies, like Nutrindo, exporting high-value tuna to the US and Japan were among the first to use the Pointrek system to track tuna products from the point of catch, to landing, to the processing facility. Using the Pointrek eCDT solution to verify seafood legality and sustainability prevents illegal seafood from entering the United States and other countries. That verification allows consumers to knowingly purchase legal seafood products, and also rewards sustainable and ethical fishing practices.

Other benefits for companies that adopted the Pointrek system include:

  • Increased Compliance Ease with National and International Market Requirements – The Pointrek device improved government compliance and reduced the time required to meet record-keeping requirements, eliminating the need to make in-person visits to authority offices to submit paperwork.
  • Increased Communication for Processing Plant Management – Two-way, real-time communication has resulted in a host of benefits for fleet managers, captains and crew. Previously, communication was only available via radio on days with clear weather. Now, through messaging and vessel-tracking functions, it is easy to track ship position, catch results and routing plans.
  • Improved Fleet Management and Weather Data incorporated in the Pointrek system, Nutrindo has been able to make data-driven decisions on when vessels will set sail, which has reduced unproductive vessel trips due to bad weather. This has saved the company as much as seven to ten million Indonesian Rupiahs (approximately $500-900) per vessel per trip cancelled due to bad weather (the operational cost of sending a vessel out to sea).
  • Enhanced Captain and Crew Experience – Crews on fishing vessels using Pointrek reported increased comfort in knowing they can communicate to shore, less paperwork, and improved route planning as they can easily check their position, predict time of arrival, and prepare those receiving their catch on land.

“eCDT technology [including Pointrek] has helped us improve our efficiency, reporting accuracy, and at the same time ensures every fisherman is practicing legal, reported and regulated fishing activities. We strongly recommend this technology to others and hope that with continued expansion the technology will continue to become more affordable for use by all. – Tedy Harmoko, Plant Manager, Nutrindo

Consistent with USAID Oceans’ focus on human welfare and gender empowerment, the Pointrek system adopts a human-centered design by taking into consideration concerns of fishers and their respective families delivering the ability to regularly communicate with each other. As a result of the engagement with USAID Oceans, PT. Sisfo grew its network, market and scale of operation to increase the number of fishers who do electronic catch reporting as a strategy to effectively curb IUU fishing and sustainably manage fisheries. The company also improved the Pointrek system throughout the partnership with USAID Oceans, to add additional features, provide additional benefits to users and to facilitate disaster management and relief operations.

Learn More:

Pointrek/Inmarsat: Two-Way Communication Vessel Monitoring System

Business Benefits of eCDT Solutions


Type: Feature Article, Success Story | Author: Resonance Global | Date: 28 May, 2020 | Subject: Catch Documentation and Traceability, Partnerships and Engagement | Country: Indonesia, Regional