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Our Ugly Ports
An aerial view of PT Jakarta International Container Terminal (JICT) at Tanjung Priok port in Jakarta, August 4, 2017. REUTERS/Beawiharta
Friday, 12 January, 2018 | 08:58 WIB
Our Ugly Ports

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The government ought not to complain to the International Maritime Bureau about Tanjung Priok Port being put on its blacklist of ports prone to piracy. It should also stop whining to the Joint War Committee because the port has been declared an area at risk of becoming a victim of the conflicts there.

The government’s current actions in attempting to woo these two institutions are ridiculous. Like a pupil growling at his teacher: asking for better grades, yet unwilling to be diligent and continuing his incorrigible behavior.

If the government is truly serious about wanting to get a better report card for Tanjung Priok Port, all the stakeholders in the port- the Ministries of Transportation, State-Owned Enterprises, and Indonesian Ports (Pelindo) II- should see just how ugly the face of our ports really are. For decades, Tanjung Priok continues to be managed in the archaic way it has always been run since the last century when it was full of bandits and rogues. The port is rundown. Thuggery and theft are commonplace there, even though it has a police precinct station. Thus, it is appropriate for an international shipping organization, such as the International Maritime Bureau, to name Tanjung Priok as a port prone to piracy.

Tanjung Priok’s ‘ulcers’ become ever more clearly visible once the organization of the port is examined. It still has disputed sacred graveyards and offices of the Indonesian Navy. This is what led the Joint War Committee to include this port as an area prone to conflicts. To date, the government has not seemed to care about it. In fact, one effect of this is that insurance for foreign ships berthing in Jakarta is more expensive than at ports elsewhere. The Joint War Committee first wrote to the Indonesian government in 2015, but until now nothing has been undertaken.

Another embarrassing red mark on our report card is the inclusion of Indonesia on the blacklist of the Tokyo MOU on Port State Control. Its ‘prestige’ in this regard ranks it the same as those of Togo, Cambodia, and Mongolia.

Instead of busily lobbying everywhere to get the port off the blacklist, the government, in collaboration with Pelindo II, ought to first complete its own stack of outstanding homework. President Joko Widodo must go back to Tanjung Priok as he had done some time ago. That visit stung the port management into action. The time to unload and load goods at the port, which had been on average 3.9 days as of October 2017 then improved to less than three days. A further ‘sting’ is now needed so Tanjung Priok really does want to make a change. 

How can Indonesia ever dream of developing its own maritime axis if the management of Tanjung Priok, our most important port, is still so messed up?

A nation’s ports portray its economic development. The developed economy generally has good ones. Look at China with its pulsating economy. Out of the world’s ten largest ports, seven are located there. And Singapore, which has the second largest port in the world. Every year it services 140,000 vessels and 537.6 millions of tons of cargo.

Improvements in our ports are now mandatory. The government must reflect on the process adopted for straightening out our railway stations. In the past, they were also rundown and were dens for thugs. However, under the leadership of Kereta Api Indonesia CEO Ignasius Jonan, those stations were transformed to be clean and professionally run. Jonan even sent 3,000 of its employees to China and France to learn about the railway systems in both those nations. 

Read the full article in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine



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