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Jakarta Post

North Sumatra’s Kuala Tanjung seaport enjoys increased traffic despite pandemic

  • Apriadi Gunawan and Mardika Parama

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Mon, September 28, 2020   /   07:19 pm
North Sumatra’s Kuala Tanjung seaport enjoys increased traffic despite pandemic State-owned port operator Pelindo I president director Bambang Eka Cahyana (center) is pictured with Kuala Tanjung Multipurpose Terminal (KTMT) operator Prima Multi Terminal president director Robert Sinaga (right) and Taiwan-based shipping company Wan Hai president director Tommy Hsieh at the terminal in North Sumatra on Thursday during the maiden shipment from Kuala Tanjung Port to China. (The Jakarta Post/Apriadi Gunawan)

State-owned port operator PT Pelabuhan Indonesia (Pelindo) I has seen an increase in ship calls at its Kuala Tanjung seaport in Batubara regency, North Sumatra, despite the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on global trade.

The company’s president director Dani Rusli Utama said on Sept. 24 that the Kuala Tanjung Multipurpose Terminal (KTMT) had recorded 169 ship calls as of August, an increase of 30 percent year-to-date (ytd) from 130 calls booked throughout 2019.

KTMT had also handled around 31,900 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of cargo as of August this year, 34 percent more than the 23,900 TEUs of cargo KTMT handled throughout 2019.

“If we look at the cargo loading traffic, it shows a positive trend,” Dani said during a press conference.

Kuala Tanjung seaport is expected to become one of Indonesia’s largest ports after the country’s main gateway, Tanjung Priok Port in Jakarta. It is located in Batubara regency, home to resources such as oil palm and aluminum, and is supported by the nearby Sei Mangkei special economic zone (KEK).

The seaport, which began to service exports in December 2018, has a 17-meter low water spring (LWS) draft that enables 50,000 dead weight tonnage (DWT) freight ship to dock.

Meanwhile, the World Trade Organization (WTO) projects that global trade volumes will contract by between 13 percent at best and 32 percent at worst this year, affecting the trade-dependent shipping industry.

Pelindo I spokesperson Fiona Sari Utama told The Jakarta Post on Friday that both national and international freight shipping companies docked at Kuala Tanjung seaport because of the availability of modern facilities and services.

“The number of domestic and international cargo services that dock at KTMT is steadily increasing because the port is supported by state-of-the-art port infrastructure,” she said.

Furthermore, Fiona said the government’s infrastructure projects in Sumatra had resulted in increasing traffic of general cargo, especially of construction materials.

“The potential for general cargo shipments through the port has increased thanks to the government’s infrastructure projects, such as the trans-Sumatra toll road,” she said, referring to the 2,900-kilometer toll road mega project that aims to connect Aceh, the northernmost province in Sumatra, to the island’s southernmost province Lampung.

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo inaugurated the Pekanbaru-Dumai section of the trans-Sumatra toll road during a virtual ceremony on Sept. 25.

Read also: Jokowi inaugurates first toll road in Riau

According to Pelindo I’s data, general cargo is the fastest growing segment handled by KTMT with an increase of 176 percent ytd to 46,800 tons as of August, from around 16,900 tons by the end of 2019.

Meanwhile, crude palm oil (CPO) products remain the largest commodity handled by KTMT, reaching around 242,500 tons as of August, a 137 percent increase from the end of 2019.

Indonesian National Shipowners Association (INSA) chairperson Carmelita Hartoto told the Post on Sunday that shipping companies were satisfied with the services provided at Kuala Tanjung seaport.

However, she said that Pelindo I should expand the port area and increase the number of container cranes to optimize its potential.

KTMT currently operates three ship-to-shore cranes and eight automated rubber tyred gantry cranes, according to Pelindo I’s data.

“Kuala Tanjung port has huge potential thanks to its services and location. However, access to the industrial hinterland remains limited and the port needs to be expanded so more large ships can dock at the port,” she said.

She said the government also needed to increase industrial development in the region to attract more shipping lines and improve access between the seaport and the industrial region.

“The trucking costs remain higher at KTMT compared to the nearby port of Belawan [in North Sumatra],” she said.