Eight Killed In A Boat Crash In Indonesia

Eight people are reported dead after a boat capsized off the coast of Indonesia’s Borneo region on Monday, January 1st. The vessel was carrying 48 passengers, including multiple children, when it sank due to undetermined causes.

BBC News reported that the boat was travelling from Tanjung Selor to Tarakan in Kalimantan when the incident occurred, at approximately 8:15 am local time. Gusti Anwar Mulyadi, a spokesperson for the rescue agency, announced that they will continue to search for the cause of the accident, but will prioritize finding a passenger that is unaccounted for.

Small boats and ferries are heavily relied on as a form of transport between the many islands that make up the archipelago nation. However, there is an alarming history of boats like the Anugrah Express —the ship that sank on Monday— capsizing due to overcrowding and lack of safety measures.

On January 1st, 2017 the Zahro Express Ferry caught fire outside the Muara Angke port in Jakarta. It was carrying 230 passengers, a large number of whom were tourists, at the time, and resulted in the deaths of at least 23 people. According to Bernama, the Malaysian National News Agency, eight people were also killed in July of 2017, when a boat on the same route as the Anugrah Express sank.

The capsizing of ferries going between Indonesia’s islands continues to pose serious obstacles to those who rely on the transport for daily life. The boat system is a major form of movement for many Indonesians, as well as the chosen route for tourists. A popular and safer alternative to the ferry system is air travel. However, the higher costs of flights means that those who cannot afford to fly between islands are excluded from this option.

Pelni, or Pelayaran Nasional Indonesia, Indonesia’s national shipping company, has a long and invaluable role in Indonesia’s economic history. According to an article in VOA, Pelni ships have symbolized Indonesia’s bold assertion of its right to the waters that make up the archipelago since its creation in 1952, and with it both the trade routes and daily paths of the ships it operates.

However, while the fleet that belongs to the national company has a relatively accident-free record, the geographical reality of the country has prompted the creation of many companies that offer transport between the islands. With many companies, many passengers, and far too little oversight, people continue to be at risk. The tragic death of the 8 people this New Years reflects a sad, but largely ignored example of the many that have suffered from the consistent failure to address this fatal issue.