The Jakarta Post
President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo's vision to develop a modern maritime transport system, known as 'maritime highways', is beginning to materialize with the daily operation of freighters connecting Sorong and Waisai in Papua.
National Development Planning Board (Bappenas) transportation director Bambang Prihartono said on Thursday that twice-a-day freight transportation services connecting Sorong-Waisai and also Surabaya, East Java with Makassar, South Sulawesi, which previously had no regular schedule, marked the government's commitment to realize Jokowi's vision.
'Essentially, the government's maritime highway concept has been realized with these scheduled daily services operated by Pelni [a state-owned shipping firm],' Bambang told reporters.
'We hope the operation of these services can stimulate the private sector to also operate scheduled freighters to remote places,' he added.
The government's program will require nearly Rp 700 trillion (US$55.4 billion) for the development of 24 commercial ports, over 1,000 non-commercial ports and the procurement of vessels between 2015 and 2019.
The program is also expected to reduce logistics costs from 23.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) to 19.2 percent in 2019.
Bambang said that while waiting for infrastructure development to fully support the initiative, the government had decided to begin by operating shorter routes with a smaller capacity.
'With scheduled sea freight transportation, we aim to reduce primary commodity price disparities between Java and the country's eastern areas,' he said.
The Transportation Ministry previously assigned Pelni to operate scheduled sea-freight transportation to serve remote areas as part of the government's maritime highways initiative.
Pelni president director Sulistyo Wimbo Hardjito said the firm was still waiting for the official assignment from the ministry to operate freight services to Tual, Maluku; Tobelo, North Maluku; and Serui, Papua.
'The government is also awaiting the disbursement of the state budget to officially assign us to operate the new routes, because we require subsidies to operate them,' Wimbo told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.
Wimbo said the shipping company expected to begin the operation in the second quarter of this year.
In the revised 2015 state budget, the government earmarked Rp 3.79 trillion to build freight and passenger ships to serve new routes aimed at facilitating the movement of goods and people outside Java.
The investment will go to 15 freight ships and 10 passenger ships, that are expected to be ready for operation in two years.
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