Modern passenger ships have been integrated into Indonesian maritime industry since they were first introduced into Indonesian waters in 1980s. After the ro-pax ferry KMPTampomas accident in late January 1981, PELNI - the largest passenger lines in Indonesia began to modernize its fleet of passenger ships to prevent such disaster from occurring again.
In the middle of 1980s, PELNI received new passenger ships from Meyer Werft (shipyard) of Germany into its fleet to serve major ports in Indonesian islands. Some of them are KM Kambuna, KM Kerinci, KM Umsini, and KM Rinjani. KM stands for Kapal Motor or Motor Ship. These ships each could carry around 3,000 people but during the high seasons they double the capacity to between 4,000 and 5,000 passengers given that the summer load waterline did not exceed the minimum freeboard stipulated by IMO or Classification Rules.
All the additional passengers were deck ones. This is still practiced by PELNI lines at the moment. Although it is a dangerous practice during bad weather, as long as it still adheres to the stipulated freeboard, PELNI considers that the additional number of passengers will not bring the ship into the risk of sinking.
It is not clear whether PELNI also increases the number of life jackets, boats and rafts to protect the passengers at sea. In addition, the additional passengers that PELNI ships have to carry during school holiday, Idul Fitri, Christmas and New Year seasons make the sea voyages are not comfortable.
More passengers mean more rooms, water, and food the ships should provide. In fact, passengers often complain that they run out of water to shower. The gangways and decks look dirty too during high season voyages.
Although waste streams produced by passenger ships are smaller compared to the whole amount produced by the whole world shipping industry, when not properly treated and discharged into the sea, they really threaten the marine environment.
The provisioning of modern passenger ships has restored passengers' confidence over PELNI's service. Feeling that such investment in high cost European made ships was worthy due to the profits and better safety standards the ships gave to the company, PELNI ordered more ships in 1990s.
Today there are nearly 30 passenger ships PELNI has in its fleet. It is a state owned shipping company that is intended not only to transport people but also to connect the whole territory of Indonesian islands as one undivided country. So, it is the government's policy to provide ships that support the development of national integrity of Indonesia and also to serve passengers from moving from one island to another.
When transatlantic passenger ship-liners have long been replaced by airplanes, it is amazing to see that PELNI is the only company that runs true passenger liners in fast schedules transporting a lot of people every year. Also read: Boat building and Living tradition of the Mentawai Tribe; Sailing Across the North Pole with Boat to the New World