Indonesia: Ports paralyzed as traffic at Bakauheni, Merak worsens


The horrendous, kilometers-long traffic jams that have fouled Bakauheni and Merak ports for two days have been worsening due to vacationers looking to cross the Sunda Strait for the school holiday season.

Thousands of trucks have been parked for days outside Bakauheni Port in Lampung in Sumatra and Merak Port in Banten in Java, waiting for ferries.

The congestion is expected to continue until the school holiday ends late next week.
The operations chief of the Bakauheni office of state-owned River, Lake and Crossing Transportation company PT ASDP, Heru Purwanto, attributed the long lines of cars and trucks to the sharp rise in the number of private vehicles using the crossing during the holidays.
“We have increased the number of ferries on the Merak-Bakauheni route in anticipation of a surge in the number of passengers during the holiday season from mid-June to mid-July 2012.
The number of ferries we operate reached 25, as compared to only 16 to 19 on ordinary days,” Heru said.

“The increase, however, has not solved the congestion problem,” he added.
Trucks have been backed up for 5 kilometers outside Bakauheni Port, while the line outside Merak Port has reached a staggering 15 kilometers, Heru said.

Imron Rosadi, 36, a truck driver headed from Jakarta to Bandarlampung, said he abandoned his truck in Cikuasa Atas near Banten and decided to return home to Lampung after he ran out of money waiting for a ferry.

“I left my truck after I was forced to stay for three nights without any certainty as to when my truck could cross to Lampung,” Imron said.

The congestion was the worst he had ever seen at the crossing, Imron said, including the last large-scale backups in January and in 2011.

Drivers and the firms that employ them have suffered financial losses due to the delays, he added.

“We suffer not only in terms of time, but also in operational expenses, as we are forced to spend more. We also frequently fall victims to shakedowns from hoods [preman] and crooked cops,” Imron said.

The head of the Lampung chapter of the Indonesian Employers Association (Apindo), Yusuf Kohar said that the central government had not been responsive in resolving the traffic jams on both sides of the Sunda Strait.

According to Kohar, if the severe congestion problem was not thoroughly solved, it would disrupt the distribution of basic commodities needed by the people.
“This has happened many times for the same reasons. The impact on the businesses has also been clear, that is, increases in the prices of major commodities and increases in operational expenses,” he said.

Heru said that the number of vehicles looking to travel between Java and Sumatra to Java were typically 15 percent higher during peak seasons, such as he school holiday.
The number of private cars at the crossing, Heru said, had increased from an average of 1,800 a day to 2,350 during the peak season, while the number of buses rose from 230 a day to 500.
Passengers looking to travel to Java were planning to holiday in several cities, such as Jakarta; Bandung and Bogor in West Java; and Yogyakarta.

Sumatran-bound travelers were bound for destinations in Lampung, North Sumatra and West Sumatra.


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