Pointed at preserving the ecosystem, the Raja Ampat local government in West Papua intends to tighten ordinance on cruise tourism by working out a circular to anticipate more cruise vessels from smashing its coral reefs.
The circular will expect operators and agents of cruise ships desiring to sail to Raja Ampat to hire locals on board and to fund a deposit to the Raja Ampat government to guarantee the protection of the island’s ecosystem.
The deposit, which will be refunded at the end of the trip, will differ from 100 million rupiahs (US$7,068) for a yacht to one billion rupiahs for a cruise ship.
The move is in answer to several cruise ships hitting the coral reefs in the seas of Raja Ampat
The move is in answer to the separate events of KLM Lamima, MV Caledonian Sky, and Aqua Blu hitting the coral reefs in the seas of Raja Ampat from March 2017 to January 2020, according to I Wayan Dumya, project manager of G-Tour.
The repetitious occurrences, he said, had prompted the local government and industry players, such as travel agents like G-Tour, to meet in several meetings to craft ordinances that sounded the spirits of conservation, education, and empowerment in a bid to prevent repeat incidents.
Wayan said: “The local government is infuriated at the incidents because no one wants to take obligation for the destruction of the coral reefs.”
The local government recommended imposing a deposit to make cruise ships more careful, according to Wayan, who had attended the meetings.
However, he added, industry players, opposed the plan because it would be challenging to execute. In the meetings, they also discussed that the proposed deposit could make more travelers reluctant to visit Raja Ampat because the ordinances would be more complicated.
The meetings did not result in any decision
The meetings did not result in any decision. Therefore, Wayan said he was amazed by the issuing of the circular, which he said did not include industry players like himself.
For Ketut Sediya Yasa, managing director of Destination Asia Indonesia, what he considered more significant than imposing a deposit is giving distinct guidelines on safe tracks through which certain classes of cruise ships may pass and anchor.
If the government could present such information and impose those rules, forcing a deposit would be unnecessary, he said.
Questioning the intention behind getting cruise ships to fork out a deposit, he said: “Is it to prevent them from escaping after damaging the coral reefs? I think it won’t be effortless for them to do so since they are so big. They also have an agent in Indonesia who would certainly have coordinated with the local government and related stakeholders before the arrival of the ships.”
Ketut opinioned that if implemented, the circular could hit the tourism sector in Raja Ampat because it complicated the process and may make cruise ships reluctant to visit.
Lack of communication technology in Raja Ampat, he continued, would also pose a dilemma to operators and owners of cruise ships when they have to deal with the deposit transaction.
The circular is not conclusive yet, according to Fransiskus Xaverius Teguh, Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy expert staff on sustainable development and conservation.
The central government agreed
Fransiskus stated that while the Raja Ampat administration had the authority to issue the circular, he had called on the local government to discuss with other stakeholders, including other tourism players, first as a way to achieve quality tourism in Raja Ampat.
“We central government agree that the regulation is produced to protect and conserve the ecosystem in a sustainable way. What should be emphasized is that Raja Ampat’s natural resources, including the beauty of its coral reefs, must always be preserved and not exploited excessively. Therefore, an ordinance is necessitated to prevent (ships) from being focused in main areas,” Fransiskus said.
“We will advocate more intensively and give (the local government) a fuller picture (on conservation) in a bid to prevent regulation (made by the local government) from being counterproductive,” he added.
This news refers to TTG Asia, published on March 6, 2020, under the title “Raja Ampat’s plan to claim deposit on cruise ships sparks outcry among trade.”
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