Port call: A tourist heads to her cruise ship, the “Legend Of The Seas”, from Singapore at Benoa port in Bali in this file photo dated Jan. 16, 2012. At least 306 cruise ships are expected to visit Indonesian ports in 2013, a 43 percent surge from the number of calls made throughout 2012. Antara/Nyoman Budhiana
Indonesia has become an important destination in Asia for foreign cruise ships as indicated by a persistent increase in the number of ships called at the country’s ports from year to year.
According to the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry, as many as 306 cruise calls have been confirmed for 2013, a 43 percent increase from the number of calls made throughout last year.
The calls include three large cruise liners — Celebrity Solstice, Radiance of the Seas and Diamond Princess — with about 2,000 passengers each, they will make stopovers at Benoa Port in Bali.
The ministry’s meeting, incentives, convention and exhibition (MICE) travel director Rizky Handayani said that the cruise ships were going to visit 115 different locations in Indonesia, including new destinations like Sabang in Aceh and Belawan in North Sumatra.
“Last year, cruise liners only went to 70 destinations and now the figure exceeds 100. It shows that we are growing stronger in the Asia Pacific cruise tourism industry and that we indeed offer great destinations,” Rizky told The Jakarta Post recently.
“We believe that we can grow even more in this sector since as a vast archipelagic country, our destinations suit all segments of the cruise market, from expedition vessels to small and large ships.”
She said that expedition vessels, which carried 200 to 600 passengers and visited exotic areas in the eastern part of Indonesia, is the fastest growing segment in the country.
Out of 306 calls expected throughout this year, 192 are expedition vessels, which represents 64 percent of the total number of calls.
“West and East Nusa Tenggara are the most popular destinations, with 75 cruise calls this year and cruise traffic of 54,824 passengers. This corresponds to 24 percent of the number of calls and 38 percent of the total cruise traffic in Indonesia,” she went on.
After Nusa Tenggara, she said that Bali remains the darling for medium to large cruise liners as it sees 45 calls with 44,680 passengers in 2013.
Java came third with 38 calls and 23,402 passengers while the rest would go to Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Maluku and Papua.
However, she said that Indonesia needs to better develop its existing ports to bring in Voyager-class cruise ships, large ships with around 130,000 gross tonnage (GT) that can carry more than 3,000 passengers.
She said that a growing number of voyager liners operating in the Asia-Pacific region such as Carnival Australia, Costa Cruises and Star Cruises, have shown strong interest to dock in one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, Bali, for the past few years.
Every Voyager vessel needs at least a 12-meter deep access channel, an 11-meter turning basin, and a 330-meter wharf to safely enter and dock.
Meanwhile, Benoa Port’s current access channel is only 10 meters deep and its turning basin and wharf are 10 meters and 290 meters, respectively.
“We want the Transportation Ministry and state-owned port operator Pelindo III to accelerate the expansion of Benoa because cruise operators are establishing cruise itineraries a long time in advance,” she said.
Contacted separately, the Transportation Ministry’s dredging project and port operation director, Kemal Heryandri, said that the slow progress of Benoa’s access channel project was due to large coral rocks beneath the port.
Kemal said that the ministry had been working to get rid of the rocks since 2012 and it is expected to finish at the end of 2013.
“We have allocated a Rp 102 billion [US$10.6 million] budget to dispose the rocks,” he said, refusing to provide further information to the Post.