JAKARTA - The development of Indonesia has seen its cruise ship calls and passenger traffic increase by more than 30 per cent annually for the past four years, making the country an important cruise destination in Asia.
But the slow development of port facilities in the country's major tourism destinations has caused a decline in foreign cruise ship calls. Recent data compiled by the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry has shown contractions in the growth of the nation's cruise tourism sector.
According to the ministry's data, 266 cruise calls have been confirmed for 2014, down from the 310 calls made throughout this year. Meanwhile, the number of passengers that were expected to enter Indonesian waters stood at 166,956, only a slight increase from 161,528 passengers in 2013.
The ministry's meetings, incentives, conventions, and exhibitions (MICE) and special interest tourism marketing director Rizki Handayani said the slowdown was caused by port infrastructure bottlenecks, preventing cruise liners, particularly those operating voyager vessels carrying more than 3,000 passengers, to enter the port.
"Cruise operators are establishing cruise itineraries a year to two years in advance. But if we're unable to fulfil our promise to further develop the ports when they are about to publish their itineraries, they will not include Indonesia in their map," Rizki told The Jakarta Post.
She added there was a possibility the figure would rise around March next year as some players had yet to finalize their itineraries.
Most cruise liners that wished to enter the country in 2014 sought the guarantee of port development from the government by June 2013 at the latest. In this industry, development guarantees are very important as ships need to make safe entries, anchors and exits.
She said one large player wanting to dock at one of ports across the archipelago was Voyager of the Seas, which brought around 5,000 passengers. The ship has entered Singapore and Sydney, Australia, for the past few years and is now waiting for a call to Indonesia.
"They've contacted us, saying they want to explore Indonesian destinations, especially Bali. Unfortunately, today we do not have port facilities that can accommodate a cruise ship as big as Voyager of the Seas," she said.
Every voyager or mother vessel needs a 12-meter deep access channel and an 11-meter turning basin to safely enter and anchor at any port. Meanwhile, even the country's most popular cruise destination, Benoa Port in Bali, only has 10-meter deep measurements, both in its access channel and turning basin.
As the chair of the Indonesia Cruise Task Force, she said the ministry had urged the Transportation Ministry and the state-owned port operator Pelindo to accelerate development projects for cruise purposes in 10 ports that had been identified as cruise destinations, such as Benoa and Padang Bay in Bali, Karimun Jawa and Semarang in Central Java, Komodo in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) and Lembar in West Nusa Tenggara (NTB).