Muhamad Al Azhari
Hong Kong. A land dispute over a sacred grave site in North Jakarta has constrained a massive project to develop Tanjung Priok port, the chief executive of the company that manages the biggest container terminal at the port said in Hong Kong on Friday.
Stephen Ashworth, CEO of Hutchison Ports Indonesia, a subsidiary of Hutchison Ports Holdings, said the company’s $100 million plan to reduce truck congestion at the port had been hampered by its inability to acquire land long claimed by the heirs of Mbah Priok, an 18th century Muslim scholar whose former tomb is considered sacred by his followers.
On April 14, 2010, a violent clash between North Jakarta municipal forces and Muslim residents in Tanjung Priok centered around the site resulted in the deaths of three people and injuries to hundreds more.
The Hutchison project would involve construction of modern facilities for its Terminal I container facility at the port. To streamline things there, HPH wants to build a pre-gate queuing area, a new joint entry gate and a post-gate parking area.
However, Ashworth said he was worried the project would not be realized, as the plan for developing Terminal I, which occupies 32 hectares of land, intersects with the 5.4 hectares claimed by Mbah Priok’s descendants.
“I have to be honest with you, it has created a lot of constraints on our ability to expand,” Ashworth told journalists, including from the Jakarta Globe, invited by Hutchison to Hong Kong for a four-day trip.
Tanjung Priok, which also handles passenger services and cargo, is the largest container port in Indonesia. For the last 13 years, Hutchison and local partner Pelabuhan Indonesia II have operated it through their joint venture, Jakarta International Container Terminal. Hutchison owns 51 percent of JICT, and Pelindo II and its affiliate own the rest.
Hutchison’s plan is to replace a check booth with an automated check point machine and to build a large entry gate complex to serve trucks that bring cargo to and from JICT and Terminal Petikemas Koja, another joint venture container terminal operator that Hutchison has stake in.
The new entry gate would serve 20 lanes: 14 lanes for JICT and six for Koja.
If all goes according to plan, the project will increase JICT and Koja’s collective handling capacity to 3.8 million twenty-foot equivalent units, Ashworth said.
According to Hutchison’s engineers, he added, the project could be completed by the end of 2014. He did not elaborate on how the funding would operate.
The government will integrate the Jakarta Outer Ring Road into the port area if JICT can expand its Terminal I area, he added.
JICT operates Terminal I and Terminal II at Tanjung Priok under a 20-year lease that ends in March 2019.
The Mbah Priok grave site is a 20-square-meter building with an adjoining 300-square-meter pavilion. Its heirs claim they hold rights to a 54,000-square-meter plot, as stipulated by an old Dutch certificate issued in 1934. However, city authorities issued a title to Pelindo II for the same piece of land in 1987.
The Mbah Priok heirs sued the port company in 2001, but the North Jakarta District Court ruled in 2002 that Pelindo II held rights to 1.45-square-kilometer parcel, saying that the Dutch property certificate’s origin was unknown.
The Jakarta Park and Cemetery Agency moved Mbah Priok’s remains to the Semper cemetery in North Jakarta in 1997.
Ashworth said he was aware of the sensitivity of the issue. But, he said, the land was the domain of Pelindo II.
“Our partner is working very hard and I think the government is now, all the way up to the president who is aware of this problem,” he said.
When asked about other potential solutions to the dispute, Ashworth said Hutchison would do as much as it could to improve the terminal’s operation. That includes developing a sophisticated port system, training more people, and bringing more cranes, he said.
Still, there was “no point if the trucks get stuck” at the gate, he said.
“Importers are complaining to us, how come we wait so long for our inventories?” He said.
“The model has to be integrated. It’s not only invest, invest, invest. It must also complete the infrastructure. Otherwise it does not make any sense. It’s about connectivity.”
Ashworth said Hutchison generally did not seek media interest in its business in Indonesia.
“We don’t always go to the press or talk to the media a lot,” he said. “This is not because it is our policy, it is more on the nature of our company.”
JICT has played a major role in serving Indonesia’s trade. International shipping companies on its list of customers are APL, Maersk Line, CMA CGM, PIL, Evergreen and Wan Hai.
Hutchison Ports Holdings is a subsidiary of the multinational conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa, one of the largest companies listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
The HPH network of port operations comprises 314 berths in 52 ports spanning 26 countries throughout Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, the Americas and Australasia.
Tanjung Priok is believed to be named after Mbah Priok, whose full name is Habib Hasan bin Muhammad Al-Haddad.
The legendary figure was born in Palembang in 1727 before sailing to Java to spread Islam in 1756. A large wave overturned his boat, which had escaped heavy cannon fire by the Dutch.
Because of his legendary struggle to propagate Islam, Habib was viewed as a respected Muslim figure and over the centuries, his tomb became a pilgrimage site.