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Jakarta Post

COVID-19 takes toll on Pelni as ports temporarily close

  • Riza Roidila Mufti

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Tue, April 7, 2020   /   04:23 pm
COVID-19 takes toll on Pelni as ports temporarily close Have a pleasant trip: Passengers get ready to board state-owned ship operator Pelni's KM Nggapulu passenger vessel at Ambon Port, Maluku, on June 11, 2019. (Antara/Izaac Mulyawan)

The national shipping industry has been hard hit by the COVID-19 outbreak, which has disrupted the flow of goods along shipping routes.

In addition to shipping, the COVID-19 outbreak has also taken a toll on passenger ship operators, with a number of ports temporarily closing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

State-owned shipping company PT Pelni has suffered a sharp decline in passenger numbers since the COVID-19 outbreak hit the country in early February, the company’s corporate secretary Yahya Kuncoro said in Jakarta on Saturday, adding that business had dropped off further after the government imposed social restrictions to curb the outbreak in March.

He said that a number of the company’s passenger ships, such as the KM Dobonsolo, KM Ciremai, KM Nggapulu, KM Dempo, KM Sinabung and KM Leuser, could not operate optimally because many regional administrations had closed their ports to prevent the spread of the virus. Although the ships are still allowed to transport cargo, the closure of ports had severely hurt business, he added.

Most ports in Papua, including in Jayapura, Timika, Agats, Merauke, Nabire, Biak, Serui, Sorong, Manokwari, Kaimana, Fakfak and Wasior, have been closed for passenger ships. Several other ports in Maluku, such as in Saumlaki, Namrole, Sanana and Dobo have also been also closed.

Ports have also been closed in Batulicin and Bontang in East Kalimantan; Waingapu and Larantuk in East Nusa Tenggara; Blinyu and Tanjung Pandan in Bangka Belitung; Awerange and Bitung in Sulawesi and Letung Tarempa in Riau Islands.

Meanwhile, chairwoman of the Indonesian National Shipowners Association (INSA) Carmelita Hartoto said on March 30 that the COVID-19 outbreak had not only had financial impacts on shipping companies but also affected their administrative and technical work.

The volume of cargo exported and imported to and from China has declined by 14 to 18 percent. Shipments to other countries such as Singapore and South Korea have also declined, while domestic cargo shipments have dropped 5 to 10 percent, the association said.

The clearance process at seaports is another challenge that has resulted in higher operational costs. The clearance process has been further complicated by additional procedures such as ship disinfection, ship crew health checks and travel history checks.

“This has increased operational costs,” said Carmelita. 

Carmelita also reported that efforts to halt the spread of COVID-19 had also disrupted administrative work. With physical distancing and work-from-home policies in place, business players have found it difficult to carry out administrative work, such as acquiring ship certificate, because of staff shortages.

On the technical side, Carmelita said ship owners also faced difficulties conducting maintenance because of the limited number of workers available.