Bali-Lombok Ferries Seeking New Routes

As many as 13 ferry operators serving transport between Padangbai, Bali and Lembar, Lombok have shifted their vessels to other locations due to the lack of traffic connecting Bali with its nearest island neighbor to the east.

RadarBali reports that the shipping companies searching for more lucrative crossings are claiming they could no longer sustain the mounting losses caused by significant declines in passenger and cargo loads.

Anang Heru, the chairman of the Association of River, Island, and Crossing Operators (Gapasdap) in Padang Bai, Bali, declared on Monday, 14 June 2021, the Padang Bai – Lombok ferry route was no longer financially productive. Heru blamed much of the decline on opening a new direct ferry service connecting Ketapang in East Java and Lembar in Lombok. He said that many logistic operators are now opting for the new service for its efficiencies in time and energy.

Heru said many companies once sailing between Padang Bai, Bali, and Lombok have relocated to Palembang in Sumatra.

Heru said that traffic to and from Padang Bai had decreased 40% to levels enjoyed before the COVID-19 pandemic and the introduction of the new Ketapang-Lembar ferry. Before the business downturn, a large ferry operating between Bali and Lombok could secure an income of around Rp. 2.5 billion per month. It is problematic for these same ships to net an income of Rp. 1 billion per month in the current business climate.

The Gapasdap chairman at Padang Bai also said that new fast boat services to Lombok operating from the Port of Tanah Ampo in East Bali has siphoned off passenger and vehicle totals by offering significant discount and “cashback” deals.

Adding to the problem of ferry operators are Government rulings that prohibited “mudik” homecoming travel over the Lebaran holidays.

Following an appeal by ferry operators, the Regent of Karangasem has promised to write the Director-General of Sea Communications to request that Tanah Ampo be returned to its original status as a cruise port.

Ferry operators also remain hopeful that the new Gilimanuk-Mengwi toll road construction will do much to boost and restore ferry traffic between Bali and Lombok.