Monitoring the Border: Indonesian Port Security and the Role of Private Actors


This article explores the involvement of a range of diverse for-profit actors in providing port and border security in Indonesia. Using the port of Belawan, Medan, as a case study, the article demonstrates the critical, albeit controversial, role that private security providers play in security governance in Indonesia. After a discussion of port security and the notion of ports as borders, the paper provides an overview of the large number of state and non-state actors involved in providing security in the port of Belawan. Among the for-profit actors are guards hired by the state-owned port operator Pelindo I; Private Military and Security Companies (PMSCs) with links to the Indonesian military; and members of Pemuda Pancasila (PP), known to be involved in illegal activities in the port they help secure. The article argues that while some private actors do contribute to port security, the involvement of so many different types of state and non-state agencies has actually lessened security in Belawan. This is in part due to the nature of some of the agents involved — particularly the members of PP — and the problematic relationship and lack of cooperation between the different state and non-state actors.