Saturday, May 19, 2007

Indonesia launches its first tsunami buoy

Wednesday, April 11, 2007
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Indonesia successfully launched the first domestically produced tsunami early warning buoy Tuesday after six months of cross-industry work.

"This is the masterpiece of all the institutions and people involved in its construction. This has never happened in Indonesia before -- a scientific project involving many people from various fields of science," Said Djauharsyah Jenie, head of the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT), said at the launch of the system at the Science and Technology Research Center in Serpong, Banten.

"However, the moment of truth for this project will come in the next two or three days when the equipment is placed into the sea."

The early warning system is comprised of two main parts, a buoy unit that floats on the surface of the ocean, and a bottom unit placed about 2,000 to 6,000 meters below the surface on the sea bed. The bottom unit will detect any early signs of a tsunami with a recorder. It will then automatically send information to the surface buoy through an underwater acoustic modem. The buoy then sends the information to the monitoring station by satellite.

All parts of the equipment, which weights 2,572 kg, were produced in Indonesia, except the bottom pressure recorder, which was imported from the U.S.

Ridwan Djamaluddin, an official from the BPPT who led the buoy construction project, said the equipment was designed to provide a warning within three minutes of a tsunami wave being detected at the bottom of the ocean.

The equipment will be placed in the waters off Semangko Bay in the Sunda Straits within the next three days.

"One thing we need to prove is the ability of the ocean bottom unit to pass signals to the buoy on the surface. The standard of success is whether the buoy, with its telecommunications antenna, can receive a signal from the ocean bottom unit and send it on. The possibility of success is 75 to 80 percent," said Ridwan.

He refused to reveal the production cost, but said that it would be similar to that of newly purchased buoys from other countries.

"It is hard to say an exact number because we didn't calculate the total cost starting from the preliminary research. But just for comparison, the current international market price for a new buoy is about US$500,000. Other countries did their research for more than 10 years and we put this together in only six months. Therefore, it's hard to compare the cost but, more or less, the material cost is similar," said Ridwan.

The construction of the buoy system was undertaken by 39 experts from various institutions, including the BPPT, the State Ministry for Research and Technology and the Meteorology and Geophysics Agency. It started in August last year and was originally scheduled to be finished by December, but the period of compilation was eventually extended by two months.

Ridwan added that Indonesia needed at least 22 or 24 buoys to cover the areas where tsunamis could be expected. Only two buoys have been placed in the water so far.

In order to provide the buoys needed by the country, the BPPT has decided to produce 10 more buoys by 2008. The German government will provide nine units by 2008, while the U.S. government will provide three buoys this year.

"We hope that by 2008 all coastal communities in the western part of Sumatra, the southern part of Java, as well as in Bali, Nusa Tenggara, Papua and Maluku, can be provided with the buoy system," said Ridwan. (02)

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