Fadli, Batam, Riau Islands – The Riau Islands administration, which governs a string of islands adjacent to the South China Sea, has started charging vessels parking fees in six anchorage areas across the province as part of a wider effort to generate revenue amid a pandemic-induced economic slump.
Newly installed Governor Ansar Ahmad has said that the province aimed to collect Rp 200 billion (US$14.28 million) in parking fees annually and asked operators to keep improving their services so as to attract more vessels to Riau Islands waters and drop anchor.
"We have to provide them with the best services at a low price so that more vessels will come to us," Ansar said recently.
The province is poised to seize on opportunities at a time when anchorage space in Singapore and Johor Bahru in Malaysia is shrinking. As the region in closest proximity to Indonesia's neighbors, the Riau Islands stands ready to tap into the spillover, the governor said.
To mark the start of the new policy, Ansar handed private company PT Bias Delta Pratama a license to operate the anchorage area in the Galang waters in Batam city on March 3. Several other licenses were awarded to other companies, including a joint venture between state port operator PT Pelindo I, PT Maxter Dyrynusa Perdana and PT Asinusa Putra Sekawan. PT Pelabuhan Kepri, a region-owned company, was also awarded a license.
Apart from Galang, anchorage sites that are subject to this new policy include the waters off Nipah Island, Tanjung Berakit, Karimun, Riau Straits and Batu Ampar.
In the past, anchorage fees went to the Transportation Ministry as non-tax state revenue, despite protests from regional administrations. Since 2005, the Riau Islands administration has been demanding a revenue-sharing agreement for the operation of anchorage sites. The central government finally agreed to allows the province to collect fees from the service last year.
Ansar said Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister Luhut Pandjaitan had played a major role in changing the policy.
"Before I was installed as governor, I met him and asked for a favor. We badly needed new sources of revenue because the pandemic has absorbed much of our regional budget," Ansar said.
Like Luhut, Ansar is a Golkar Party politician. On several occasions, Luhut supported the province so it could gain the right to manage anchorage sites. Most recently, he asked the Indonesian Navy (TNI-AL) to support regional administrators with security around anchorage areas.
Separately, PT Bias Delta Pratama director Capt. Ahmad Jauhari said the company was ready to fulfill the governor's expectations.
He said PT BDP had set competitive parking fees for the areas it operates, which covers 72 square kilometers and has a capacity of 300 vessels per day.