Foreign ships allowed to moor ‘above reefs’

Batam city administration has demanded an end to the mooring of large foreign car-carrying vessels around Rempang and Galang islands, saying it harms the area’s reefs.

Batam deputy mayor Ria Saptarika on Friday said the administration had requested the Batam free trade zone management body (BPK-FTZ Batam) stop its mooring service in the area, which is part of the Australian goverment-funded Coral Reef Rehabilitation and Management Project (COREMAP).

“We have not been involved in the application process for mooring permits for foreign vessels in Rempang and Galang waters, notwithstanding the fact that the area is right above coral reefs,” Ria said.

“We’re asking the transportation minister *Jusman Syafii Djamal* to annul *the permits*,” he said.

According to a procedural regulations, the Batam free trade zone management body, previously known as the Batam Industrial Development Authority (BIDA), is authorized to issue permits for port services in Batam.

Under the regulation, the body only requires the approval of the sea transportation directorate general at the Transportation Ministry to provide mooring permits. Ria said vessels should instead moor around Nipah island which is close to the Malacca straits and not part of COREMAP.

Around 20 foreign-flag car-carrying vessels are now mooring in Rempang and Galang waters in the Riau Islands province. The area is situated 2.5 kilometers south east of Batam Island.

Batam free trade zone public affairs division chief Dwi Djoko Wiwoho on said Friday the had given permission on March 3 to a shipping agency in Batam (PT Bias) to provide mooring services for more than 50,000 tons of foreign vessels in Rempang and Galang waters.

Djoko said that company charged Rp 20 million (US$1,940) a month for every vessel using its services.

“There are many other *positive* impacts from the presence of mooring services for the foreign vessels . the first time ever in Indonesia,” he said.

“For example, local companies sell drinking water *to the crews of moored vessels* . Locals can also offer vessel cleaning services.”

Such mooring services was the result of a drop in car exports in a number of car-producing countries since the global economic crisis began, Djoko said. This had left big foreign vessels idle and needing mooring spaces.

Rempang and Galang waters, he said, were cited as a suitable sites because they were calm and close to the Malacca straits.

“These parked vessels are new, not junks. So, you don’t have to worry about the waste they will produce in Batam.”

The dispute emerged from a “tug-of-war” between Batam city administration and the BPK FTZ Batam over authority, said Muchid Albintani, a political observer in Riau Islands province, on Friday.

A 1999 law that resulted in new regencies and a city (including Batam) orders the government to issue a regulation to cover the working relationship between the two institutions, within two years of that law being endorsed.

But the regulation remains to be seen, even after BIDA changed its name to BPK FTZ (with the exact same authority it had previously).

“The central government should be firm on the status of BPK FTZ and how it can work with the *Batam* city administration,” Muchid said.