Protests greet Batam's new port

Fadli, The Jakarta Post, Batam

At least a 100 people rallied to protest Batam's controversial new international port that opened Sunday because they feared the new facility would cost them their jobs.

The director of sea transportation at the Transportation Ministry, Jimmy Nikijulu told The Jakarta Post said the ministry issued PT Citra Tritunas a permit to operate the Harbor Bay Port in Batu Ampar to help develop the region.

The facility, which serves the Batam-Singapore trade route, is the fifth -- to open in the region after the Batam Centre, Nongsa Pura, Teluk Sinimba and Sekupang ports.

"All the ports have ready markets," Jimmy said. Harbor Bay could create extra demand for passengers traveling between the island and Singapore, he said.

"Anyone has the right to invest in this sector as long as all the (legal) requirements are met," Jimmy said while greeting the first arrival of the Wave Master ferry from Singapore.

The Harbour Bay development has caused controversy here because protesters say the city's 2002 spatial plan only allows the port to cater for cargo ships and not passenger ferries.

Its critics say the other ports are adequate to serve the less than a million international travelers that come to Batam every year.

One protester, Andi Muktar, said if the port continued to operate, taxi drivers' incomes would plummet. Drivers would spend more traveling between the old and new terminals and would face increased competition at the new port, he said.

Citra Tritunas general manager Jong Hua said the investment and construction in the new port and shopping development had created many permanent jobs in the area.

The Batam Industrial Development Authority and the city administration have said they were not involved in issuing the operating license for the new port. But there has been no response following protests from the Authority, officials said.
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