Bringing back to Indonesia its maritime empire. It seems obvious that one of the country’s most precious assets are its maritime resources. However, for many decades, Indonesia had no real strategy of developing its sea-related activities despite being the world’s largest archipelago. This translated into ageeing maritime facilities including badly equiped ports, a lack of well designed maritime highways as well as the absence of a regulatory framework for foreigners who have the desire to sail around the archipelago.
The combination of 17,000 islands with an underfunded navy and poor port infrastructure consequently turned favourable to widespread piracy, illegal fishing, and smuggling and extreme high costs to use seaways to transport goods. Indonesia’s president, Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, wants to tackle them and embrace Indonesia’s geography as an asset, turning maritime policy into a top priority.
At the end of 2014, Jokowi announced the pillars of his maritime policy in a speech during the East Asia Summit (EAS) in Naypyidaw.
It included among other a revival of Indonesia’s maritime culture, recognizing the link between the country’s archipelagic geography, identity, and social development; improving Indonesia’s oceans management by regulating fishery activities and strengthen safety for boats; boosting Indonesia’s maritime economy by improving the country’s port infrastructure, shipping industry, and maritime tourism.
A decisive political step was the appointment of Indonesia’s first ever coordinating minister for maritime affairs, Indroyono Soesilo, who oversights all maritime-related activities for the ministers of transport, tourism, energy, and fisheries. Indroyono, a U.S.-educated technocrat, returned from a posting as the director of fisheries at the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization to take up the coordinating post.
Funding for the maritime policy pillars requests a budget that the Minister for maritime affairs estimates at least at US$6 billion just to transform inadequate port infrastructures. Another important budget is to be attributed to an Indonesian Maritime Coast Guard, designed to act against smuggling, piracy and illegal fishing trade.
Maritime tourism has also a high priority. With a relaxation in foreign stakes in tourism ventures, Indonesia hopes that it will stimulate and generate more interests from international investors to fund maritime tourism infrastructures.
Maritime tourism is considered as one of the most promising niche sub-sector with considerable scope to boom in the near future. Indonesia has over 54,000 km of coastline. As such , it is an eminent member of the Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI) – an area encompassing parts of six nations that lays claim to over 75% of the world’s total biodiversity in coral. This wealth of natural resources presents opportunities to companies able to offer maritime tourism packages including world class diving, snorkeling or surfing offering the highest safety standards.
Giving exposure to Indonesia’s maritime empire has been the first step with hundred of international yachts meeting during world-class event ‘Sail Indonesia’. Maritime tourism marketing is more active these days with Indonesia participating to many international shows specialized in maritime sports and activities.
Maritime tourism is indeed of crucial importance to the development of the Eastern part of the archipelago with some of the most beautiful coral reefs and diving destinations being located in Maluku, West Papua, Sulawesi or Sunda Islands (East Nusa Tenggara). Indonesia is also looking to boost cruise activities in the region and turn many of its ports into a cruise port of call. Benoa Port in Bali is currently being prioritize as a cruise hub with upgraded facilities being ready by 2017 to welcome the world’s biggest cruise vessels. The development of international standard cruise ship terminals is another crucial issue in cities such as Jakarta, Surabaya (Tanjung Perak Port), Makassar or Kuala Tanjung, near Medan.
Last December State-owned seaport operator PT Pelabuhan Indonesia III (Pelindo III) announced to be in the process of developing new cruise tourism facilities in Banyuwangi in East Java, Benoa, Lembar in West Nusa Tenggara and Kupang in East Nusa Tenggara. The government had begun to construct the support facilities appropriate for accommodating high-class tourists, further welcoming them to enjoy maritime tourism throughout East Indonesia.