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Okt '05

Illegal ‘crossing services’ on rise in Bakauheni Port

It’s already dark when Buang and his seven passengers arrive by minivan at Bakauheni port in Lampung. That night they wanted to take a ferry to Merak port, Banten on the other side of the Sunda Strait.

As expected, a port official stopped the car at the gate, however it only took Buang less than 10 minutes to take care of everything — from buying tickets for himself, his vehicle and passengers, to boarding the ferry.

At Bakauheni, where long lines of vehicles are a routine sight, especially before and after the Idul Fitri holiday, not all drivers were able to get the special entry service like Buang. Most have to wait — some up to two days — in order to cross.

With 10 years of driving experience, the 40-year old, who now works as a driver for a travel agency, learned the trick while working as a truck driver transporting goods from Jakarta to Lampung.

“Just hand him (the port official) Rp 20,000 (US$2) or Rp 50,000, and all will be taken care of. The official will then show you the right line to enter the ferry. Without giving him mel, you’ll be told to join a long line of vehicles with no immediate chance of boarding the ferry or even leaving,” said Buang, referring to bribery.

For drivers like Buang, mel is the best solution to get the best service at the port.

The port is also overwhelmed by illegal crossing service providers, which allegedly involve port insiders.

The crossing service providers, who openly operate in houses located some five kilometers from the port, offer a “crossing service” to arrange speedy entrance for vehicles into the ferry. The providers are easy to spot as promotional signposts have been planted all along the trans-Sumatra highway.

To use the service, a motorist only has to stop outside one of the houses and ask. After payment of the appropriate fee, the car’s license plate will be written down and then “the insider” at the port will be contacted to give the car priority in boarding the ferry.

Silaban, 50, a crossing service provider, claimed that many of his customers were truck drivers who want hassle-free crossings.

“If the drivers don’t use the crossing service, it might take days to be able to cross, especially during busy days like ahead of Idul Fitri, Christmas and New Year celebrations,” he said.

He said that truck drivers were not his only customers, but also passenger buses. “If you enter Bakauheni port, ask any porter or sidewalk vendor and they’ll know an ‘insider’ who helps to cross,” Silaban said.

The cost of the service, he said, varied.

“But we provide cheaper prices for regular customers like bus, truck and travel agency drivers since they cross almost every day,” he said.

“The more customers, the more income, but it doesn’t all go into our pockets. We have to split it with officials in the field,” Silaban said, referring to certain port officials and security personnel.

The mushrooming number of crossing service providers at the Bakauheni port was partly blamed on the poor transportation system.

Of the 27 ferries serving the route, only 24 of them are actually operational, with each capable of carrying 765 passengers and 106 vehicles. Most of the ferries are over 25-years old.

An employee at the state-run ferry service company ASDP, who declined to be named, said the old ferries caused disruption to the crossing schedule, and because there were only four docks, arriving ferries often had to wait more than 30 minutes just to dock.

“The ferry Prima Nusantara, which has been in operation since 1968, can now only carry 15 trucks, while Nusa Dharma can take five. Ideally, a ship should only operate for 20 years at the most,” he said.

The company’s data shows that only three ferries — Ontoseno (1992), Royal Nusantara (1992) and Mitra Nusantara (1994) — were built in the 1990s. The rest were built between the 1960s and 1980s.

Sumber : (Oyos Saroso H.N.) The Jakarta Post, Bandar Lampung (broken link)

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