Monday, September 12, 2011

Proposed $117m Port to Put Sorong on the Shipping Map

Sorong, West Papua. There are mixed feelings of excitement and anxiety among the people of Seget sub-district in Sorong, West Papua, regarding state-owned operator Pelindo’s plans to build a cargo port in their community.

Speaking over the weekend, 48-year-old Fatma Wainsaf said her feelings toward the development plans were conflicted. She said that on the one hand she hoped the port would bring a wave of economic opportunity, but she also worries that she may be forced to move.

“We are happy and excited. If there is a development here, then we will make our fortune,” she told the Jakarta Globe.

Fatma, who owns a small shop in a nearby town, said she would move her business close to home once the port was completed. She said she could already imagine the profit she could make from the patronage of cargo workers.

“Many of the youth here don’t have jobs. Like their parents, they mostly become fishermen and also they help in sago gardens. Therefore, we feel grateful for the plan because with it our economy will improve,” said Hendricus Kumune, whose family is the traditional owner of Talame Island, the proposed site for the port. “Our village must stay here in the middle of the port.”

Pelindo plans to build a bridge to connect Talame, which is largely inhabited, to the mainland and build other supporting infrastructure around the area.

Richard Joost Lino, the president director of Pelindo II, said the port’s position at the eastern end of the archipelago meant it was well-placed to be a transport hub for the western Pacific Ocean.

Pelindo has formed a consortium with major shippers including Samudera Indonesia, Meratus Line, Salam Pacific Indonesia Lines and Temas Line to build the port, which will cost Rp 1 trillion ($117 million).

“What we need the most is for the local administration to help us acquire land from the locals,” he said.

“We will use local resources as much as we can. We will involve the people so they can have a connection to the project. It is sad to see Papuans are not commonly used as workers in their own province.”

Lino said there would be around 250 locals trained, some in Jakarta, to work in the port as operators and officers.

“We will develop a green port complete with waste and water management so that it will not damage the area. We will protect the environment,” he said.

With its strategic location, if the port is completed, Lino said it could serve routes to Jakarta, Surabaya, Makassar, Jayapura, Merauke, Ambon, East Timor, Darwin and Cairns in Australia and Pacific ports such as Port Moresby and New Caledonia.

The first phase of the development of the port will start in early 2012, and by 2013 the port is expected to be fully operational. The port will be able to handle 700,000 20-foot equivalent units per year, compared to the current Sorong port that only accommodates 25,000 TEUs.

Sudirman, the Sorong district secretary, said the local administration would assist the project by facilitating land acquisition. It also will provide the electricity needed for the new port.

Aviliani Malik, an economist from the National Economic Committee, was critical of Pelindo’s international focus.

“They must emphasize the island’s connection to the country, so that the domestic economy can be boosted,” she said. “Don’t make ports that cater more to imported goods than exported ones.”

Aviliani also said that residents must not be left out of the project so that the social development of the local people could progress.