Fuel scarcity prevents fishermen from going out to sea
Apriadi Gunawan and Slamet Susanto
The Jakarta Post
Fuel scarcity nationwide has led to fishermen in a number of regions in the country being unable to go out to sea, forcing some to switch occupations.
In Belawan Port, North Sumatra, hundreds of fishermen are reported to have been unable to catch fish for the last week due to diesel fuel shortages.
Aceng, a skipper, said the shortage had lasted for three weeks and had worsened in the last week to the point where fishermen could not head out to sea to catch fish.
He said 100 fishing boats in Belawan faced the same problem.
He added he had no idea why fuel was so difficult to obtain lately.
'The price is more expensive and the supply is only there once every three days. How can fishermen go out to sea?' Aceng said on Tuesday.
In Yogyakarta, fuel scarcities have also seen hundreds of fishermen along the province's southern coast unable to head to sea.
'I can't find fuel anywhere. It's sold out,' Dardi Nugroho, an owner of a fishing boat in Depok Beach, Bantul regency, Yogyakarta, said on Tuesday.
According to Dardi, a fisherman needed at least 15 liters of mixed fuel comprising of gasoline and lubricant to head to sea. 'Less than that and they can go but are unable to return,' he said.
The same condition was also experienced by fishermen in Samas Beach, Bantul. To kill time, they now catch fish in rivers using nets.
Mugari, another fisherman, said that if the fuel scarcity remained for a long period, the fishermen would experience severe financial difficulties.
In Semarang, Central Java, the government's policy of limiting diesel fuel purchases has caused most fishermen in the region to switch to construction work.
The chairman of the Mitra Mandiri fishermen group in Semarang City, Remi Yulianto, said that the limitation had decreased fishermen's incomes.
This was because those working with ships under 30 gross tonnage (GT) had to buy fuel from gas stations located far from the usual locations, and even then these stations may have ran out of supply.
As fishermen, they could normally earn Rp 100,000 (US$8.54) per day. As construction workers they could only earn Rp 40,000 daily.
'It's better than earning nothing,' said Remi, demanding that the government normalize the sale of fuel.
However, not all fishermen were complaining about the fuel shortage, as some of them, such as those in Sungsang village, Banyuasin regency, South Sumatra, had managed to anticipate the scarcity by stockpiling the fuel.
'I usually buy diesel fuel twice a month. I still have a lot of stock,' Umar, 35, said on Tuesday.
Umar said the purchase of diesel fuel had been limited to a maximum of 100 liters but could be obtained via officers in the neighboring community.
'If we want more, we can bribe the officers,' Umar said.
Another fisherman, Ujang, 42, also revealed that there were some illegal fuel sellers in villages located at the end of the Musi River facing Bangka Island.
'Given this, the scarcity does not really affect the fishermen here,' he added.
- Ainur Rohmah in Semarang and Ansyor Idurs in Palembang contributed to this story.
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