According to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the buoys are meant to be on the high seas off Indonesia as part of an early warning system conceived after the devastating 2004 tsunami that killed tens of thousands of people.
But at least one has been lost after a ship ran into it, while several more are still waiting to be deployed. Officials have lost contact with others because Indonesian authorities apparently haven't maintained them correctly.
“All the infrastructure was handed over in March, so the responsibility now lies with the Indonesians,” said Jörn Lauterjung of Potsdam's German Centre for Geosciences, who helped lead the project.
But even if the buoys could be made to function, the entire project might be a waste of money because existing land-based seismic equipment already does a good job of detecting incoming tsunamis.
“In my opinion, is the cost-benefit factor is so bad that one should abstain from offshore buoy systems,” Ulrich Wolf, head of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, told Focus magazine.
Indonesian officials disagree and say they'd like the buoys to be repaired. They told German TV network ARD that their country was being put at risk.
“The buoys are the heart of the system," a government official said. "They are urgently needed if one wants to know whether there really is a tsunami."