An August 1, 2005 increase in the cost of fuel charged to Bali's local fishing fleet - from Rp. 2,200 per liter (approximately US$0.22) to Rp. 5,480 per liter (approximately US$0.55) – has caused an estimated 400 fishing boats refuse to go to sea. Accordingly to guidelines issued by the Government, the increased fuel costs apply only to ships weighing greater than 30 gross tonnes.
While authorities are unclear if the refusal to go to sea is a a more genuine reaction to the added burden of higher fuel costs or an organized protest, there are concerns that Bali's only main port may become completely congested if the "stay ashore" movement widens and involves the 700 long-line tuna boats estimated to make their home port in Benoa harbor.
A Protesting Fishing Fleet
With berthing facilities overwhelmed by the number of ships refusing to go to sea, the open water areas throughout the port (both the eastern and western anchorages) are becoming increasingly crowded by the hundreds of boats resting at anchor, offering navigation challenges to all other traffic using the port basin.
Passengers joining dinner and day cruises from Benoa Harbor are viewing boats decorated with banners and posters protesting the fuel hike. Fishermen, interviewed by the Indonesian-language Bali Post, are threatening to continue their port-blocking action until their demands for lower fuel costs are met.
Owners of the long-line fleet insist that higher fuels costs have made it economically non-viable to go to sea.
On Monday morning, August 8, 2005, the overcrowded situation had eased somewhat with the fishing fleet obeying the Port Master's request to anchor in the western acnhorage, opposite the dedicated fishing port. However, given the limited size of that area, there are concerns that the hundreds of boats unable to go to sea will continue to offer special challenges to safe navigation around the harbor basin.
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