As many as 120 ships currently being tendered will be used to improve sea navigation and help stabilize commodity prices outside Java, according to a senior official at the Transportation Ministry.
Transportation Ministry director general for sea transportation Bobby Mamahit said Monday that the new vessels would be comprised of navigation ships, patrol ships, passenger ships and freighters, all to be used in the country’s remote areas.
“These ships are not for commercial use. We want to improve security as well as public service particularly in the remote areas,” he said. “We will also provide bigger passenger ships with a capacity of up to 2,000 gross tons to anticipate bad weather in certain season and areas,” Bobby said in Jakarta on Monday.
The passenger ships and freighters are expected to help stabilize commodity prices outside Java, especially in the eastern part of the country, a core aim of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s marine highway initiative.
As for the freighters, Bobby said that the ministry would later open a tender for private freight companies to operate them. The ministry would also provide subsidies for the ship operator that wins the tender that could amount to Rp 15 million (US$1,142) per day to pay for fuel and other operational expenses.
Bobby earlier said that the government had allocated Rp 5.28 trillion in the state budget to finance the construction of the 120 ships, expected to begin in the third quarter of this year.
“The construction of a ship can take up to two years. We expect to begin the keel laying [the first step in constructing a ship] in July or August this year, as we are currently still conducting the tendering process,” Bobby said.
Data from the ministry show that as of December 2014 the number of ships operated in the country reached 14,156, with a total capacity of 20.79 million gross tons, up 132 percent as compared to the figure in 2005, only 6,041 ships.
The ministry is also planning to begin developing 170 non-commercial seaports that will be used as feeder ports across the country, including those located in Aceh, Batam, South Sumatera, East Kalimantan, Maluku and Papua.
The government’s marine-highway program would require nearly Rp 700 trillion to develop 24 commercial seaports, over a thousand non-commercial seaports and procure vessels between 2015 and 2019.
Transportation Minister Ignasius Jonan previously tasked state-owned shipping firm PT Pelayaran Nasional Indonesia (Pelni) with offering sea freight transportation services for several pioneering routes in support of the government’s marine highway initiative.
Pelni president director Sulistyo Wimbo Hardjito said the firm would begin to offer scheduled sea freight transportation for pioneering routes in the second quarter of this year, and serve routes, including Tual in Maluku, Tobelo in North Maluku and Serui in Papua.
In March this year, Pelni began twice daily freight transportation services connecting Sorong-Waisai in Papua and also Surabaya-Makassar, routes previously operated without regularity, showcasing the government’s commitment to realize the marine highway program.