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Jakarta Post

COVID-19: Batam ferry terminal mulls suspending operations amid declining income

  • Fadli

    The Jakarta Post

Batam, Riau Islands   /   Wed, March 18, 2020   /   10:01 am
COVID-19: Batam ferry terminal mulls suspending operations amid declining income A ferry is docked March 17, 2020 at the Sekupang International Ferry Terminal in Batam, Riau Islands. The ferry terminal operator is considering suspending its services to Singapore and Malaysia in response to the two countries' recently announced policies to contain the COVID-19 outbreak. (JP/Fadli)

The Sekupang International Ferry Terminal in Batam, Riau Islands province, which serves routes to Singapore and Johor Bahru, Malaysia, is planning to suspend several routes following Singapore's expanded border restrictions and Malaysia's partial lockdown.

Sekupang  operations chief Jhonson Gultom told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday that the ferry terminal operator was considering suspending its services in the next few days if operating expenses exceeded income.

“There are only [losses] for us in this situation,” Jhonson said.

Singapore expanded its new border restrictions on Monday, issuing a Stay-Home Notice (SHN) of compulsory self-isolation for 14 days to returning Singaporeans and visitors who had traveled to countries severely affected by the coronavirus in the two weeks prior to their arrival in the island state.

Detailed information on the expanded restriction, including the complete list of restricted countries and any specific conditions, is provided on the website of the Singapore Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA).

Meanwhile, the Malaysian government announced on Monday that it would enforce a partial lockdown starting Wednesday, March 18, following the country's recent surge in the number of confirmed cases.

In response to the policies, the Sekupang ferry terminal on Tuesday reduced its daily trips to Singapore from 14 to six.

“Nowadays, we only serve about 100 passengers every day," said Jhonson, and that the terminal had transported 1,000 to 1,500 daily passengers before the COVID-19 outbreak.

"The new [restriction] states that ferry trips to Singapore can carry only two passengers, primarily returning Singaporean citizens,” he added.

“Suspending operational activities is definitely one of our main options, since this port depends on the Batam-Singapore route [...],” he said. The ferry terminal operator was also discussing other possible measures regarding the matter, but had not come to a final decision.

The ICA announced last Friday that the expanded border restriction would become effective one minute before midnight on Monday, March 16.

Batam vice chairman Tjaw Hioeng of the Indonesian Industrial Estate Association (HKI) said that Singapore’s expanded restrictions had come as a shock to industrial companies in the city, many of whose foreign managers were now stuck in Singapore after spending the weekend there.

“They are reluctant to return to Batam because the policy will limit their movements. If they return to Batam, they would be quarantined for 14 days,” Tjaw said on Tuesday.

He added that while foreign factories in Batam were managed remotely, they would run into problems without their foreign middle and top managers on site to sign the financial documents required to keep running.

The partial lockdown in Malaysia would also disrupt the distribution of raw materials to Batam.

“We will discuss this matter with the Batam Mayor tomorrow [Wednesday]. We hope [Jakarta] will lobby the Singaporean government to provide an exemption to business activities that require travel to the country," he said. (dpk)