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Shipyard industry in Batam faces restrictions

The influx of relocated shipyard companies from Singapore to Batam, Riau Islands, over the last five years has been blamed for negative impacts both on the marine environment and public health.

Indonesia will curtail the shipyard industry in Batam for the sake of ensuring an environmental balance, according to Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya.
The minister raised the issue in Batam earlier this week after taking a tour by helicopter and boat to inspect the environmental conditions of Batam’s waters, with special attention to areas where the shipyards were operating.

“I want to observe firsthand the environmental damage caused by the presence of the many shipyards here. We must restrict their numbers,” Balthasar said.

He accused the shipyards of using silica sand in sandblasting despite the fact that it could cause acute respiratory tract infection.

“We have been dealing with the use of silica sand, but we cannot hope to obtain results instantly. We will continue to monitor [the situation],” he said.

His ministry plans to impose restrictions on the application for licenses for investment in Batam’s shipping sector.

“Based on my observations, conditions remain favorable so far, but we will continue to study the issue further because some shipyards are still not up to standards,” said Balthasar.

Batam and Karimun have been targeted by Singaporean shipyard companies for relocation due to environmental restrictions being imposed in their own country. Marine pollution around shipyards in Singapore has given rise to serious concerns.

Consequently, a number of shipyards unable to extend their licenses relocated their activities to Riau
Islands, primarily Batam and Karimun regencies.

Based on data from the Batam Shipyard Offshore Association (BSOA), the number of shipyards in Batam in 2006 stood at 33, with 80 supporting industries.

However, according to current data from the Batam Environment Impact Control Agency, the number of shipyards operating in Batam now stands at 76, with hundreds of supporting companies.

The influx of Singaporean shipyard companies to Batam and Karimun is expected to continue over the next few years, given the advantages offered by both areas, such as their proximity to the Malacca Strait and Singapore.

Earlier, the Riau Islands’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) chairman, Johannes Kennedy Aritonang, criticized Singapore’s policy of limiting the number of shipyards there. According to him, Singapore had not been consistent in restricting shipyards in the city state. “So far, only small-scale Singaporean shipyards have relocated to Batam and Karimun, despite contributing positively to the local economy,” said Johannes.

He added that shipyard activities had apparently caused significant environmental damage and threatened surrounding marine ecosystems.

The government must consider this issue when accepting investors.

“Batam and Karimun need the presence of large-scale shipyards that maintain good standards rather than small-scale companies, which often ignore environmental rules,” said Johannes. (Source : Jakarta Post)