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Chaotic Seaways
Monday, 15 May, 2017 | 07:00 WIB
Chaotic Seaways

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The seaway toll project must immediately be amended so it becomes more effective in reducing the cost of transporting goods between islands. President Jokowi¡¯s program to use the sea as a mode of transporting goods from urban centers to the regions still faces many problems.

State funds were used to increase the number of seaway routes from 6 to 13. But these new routes could not be used optimally. Many ships are still empty as a result of poor coordination between the ministries of transportation and those of trade and agriculture.

President Jokowi once predicted that the price of beef in Jakarta would fall if special ships transported cattle from East Nusa Tenggara to the capital. Therefore, the ship Camara Nusantara I was put into operation last year. The plan was that the ship would regularly sail from East Nusa Tenggara, bringing cattle to Surabaya, Semarang, Cirebon and Jakarta. But in reality, in the two or three times that it has sailed, the Camara Nusantara I has failed to transport livestock.

The Rp1 billion government subsidy for the new route was simply wasted. From Tanjung Priok or Tanjung Perak ports, the ship has not transported much cargo. Perhaps livestock traders are used to transporting goods by other routes.

The government claims that the seaway toll project has reduced the price of necessities in eastern Indonesia by 20-25 percent. Perhaps this is true for some items. In North Sulawesi, East Nusatenggara and Maluku, the price of eggs and rice has fallen. But those of wheat, cooking oil, sugar and beef remain high. The same is true for construction materials, such as plywood and cement.

The government should focus on routes not yet covered by private companies. For example, the Jakarta-Makassar or Jakarta-Pontianak routes should be run by private companies as they are already busy. And government-run ships are still slower than private vessels. The fee for sending containers on government-owned ships may well be lower, but the longer journey can lead to rotting foodstuffs.

The monopoly of large traders in shipping goods to the regions must be ended. It is they who dictate the prices of goods in these areas. This is why the establishment of logistics centers at several locations is a smart move. These centers, known as "Our Homes" have already been established in five locations, Natuna, Tahuna, Manokwari, Larantuka and Timika. Goods are sent from these storage facilities to other areas.

The seaways project is not a short-term thing. The government also plans to build large and small ports costing around Rp626 trillion until 2030. Most of the funds will come from the private sector. There will be improvements to 52 main ports, 261 collector ports and 224 regional and 704 local feeder ports.

But the effectiveness of this government spending will be measured by the implementation of this giant project. Every year, around Rp380 billion is to be spent on subsidizing transportation on these new routes. These subsidies must reach people in isolated areas and bring about cheap prices of goods over there. They must not end up in the hands of traders, or just disappear.



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