Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Wooden Boats in Indonesian islands

Wooden boats have been transporting goods and people from one island to another in Indonesia  for years. As the largest archipelago in the world, sea transportation plays a very important role in the economic livelihood of the people. Wooden boats have been used by villagers in Indonesian islands to bring agricultural produce to coastal towns and big cities and to buy manufactured goods that they need. In the past decades, Phinisi sailing boats were used by seafarers in South Celebes. They sailed with their traditional wooden boats throughout the world. They have even claimed that the Phinisi have traveled as far as Europe and North America.
Today, cargo wooden boats that are powered by marine diesel engines and four blade propellers serve the people in coastal villages and towns in Indonesia. In the photograph of this post, you can see three wooden boats berthing at a jetty in the Dorey bay of Manokwari. Their sizes and design are not too different. These boats transport goods and people and have become important economic backbone for the development of villages in the isolated region of West Papua. The wooden boats play two function. They are used as ferries, and at the same time cargo boats. Although small holds are provided, goods are also stored together with the passengers at the same decks or compartments. Sometimes we will see domesticated animals (such as pigs, and goats) are loaded at the same decks with the passengers. Well, that's how these boats are used in developing maritime nations such as Indonesia, and perhaps the Philipines.
When I visited these boats, and checked the inside interior, I found that they are lack of life saving appliances. SOLAS and Load lines regulations have not been strictly enforced in Indonesia especially among the seafarers who operate such boats. 
It is not surprising to see that sea accident frequently occurs due to overload of goods and passengers on these kind of boats. Although Indonesia has a classification society, Biro Klasifikasi Indonesia (KI), most of the constructions of these boats are carried out in the villages where the offices of KI do not exist. The boats are designed and constructed without the supervision of naval architects whose expertise include the checking of the position of center of gravity (VCG and LCG) and the calculation of initial stability, and the application of freeboard or loadlines regulation, as well as other construction rules related to wooden boat construction. As a result, many of the traditional wooden boats both the sailing ones and the motorized ones are still not equipped with KI certifications.