Maiden ferry for travel bubble between Singapore, Batam and Bintan to operate on Feb 18: Indonesia minister
JAKARTA: The first ferry carrying passengers under the travel bubble between Singapore, Batam and Bintan will depart Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal on Friday (Feb 18).
At a virtual press conference on Monday, Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Airlangga Hartarto said: “Regarding the Batam-Bintan travel bubble, on Feb 18, the ferries from Singapore will start entering those areas.” He did not elaborate.
Commenting on the announcement, Chairman of Nongsa Sensation Anddy Fong told CNA on Monday: “Currently we will only operate one ferry per day for a start.”
Nongsa Sensation is a grouping of resorts in Nongsapura, Batam.
The ferry has the capacity to take on about 240 people but Mr Fong said due to the implementation of COVID-19 health protocols, it will only be able to carry a maximum of 120 people.
“I cannot give you the exact number of guests on Friday yet because everyone is still struggling to get bookings and answer enquiries, a lot of enquiries and phone calls … people are keen to come,” said Mr Fong.
While in Batam Nongsapura, travellers from Singapore will be separated from domestic tourists to ensure health protocols are in place, he added.
The first ferry from Tanah Merah will depart at 3pm Singapore time and arrive in Nongsapura at around 2:40 Batam time on Friday, Mr Fong also said.
There will be daily ferries from Nongsapura to Tanah Merah departing at 1pm Batam time.
Responding to CNA's queries on Tuesday, ferry operator BatamFast confirmed that the maiden ferry will depart on Feb 18 from Tanah Merah ferry to Nongsapura.
To be able to travel, visitors must have stayed in Singapore for the last 14 days prior to the trip, it said.
They also must have received two doses of COVID-19 vaccine with the last dose taken at least 14 days from the date of the trip.
BatamFast also said that visitors must stay within the designated areas while in Nongsapura and are not allowed to mix with people outside their own group.
It is unclear at this time if there will be a direct ferry service between Singapore and Bintan under the travel bubble.
In a statement issued on Sunday, the governor of Riau Islands Ansar Ahmad said that he will personally welcome the first tourists to arrive in Nongsapura, Batam from Singapore on Feb 18.
“Of course we are very happy because our efforts for the past 1.5 years (to create the travel bubble) will finally be realised. I will welcome the foreign tourists myself accompanied by my friends from the other associations,” the governor said.
The statement added that there will be several requirements for those travelling to Nongsapura, including a seven-day stay-home notice after they return from the trip.
On Jan 24, Indonesia announced that it has opened a quarantine-free travel corridor that allows people from Singapore to travel to Batam and Bintan. However, none of the ferry operators has yet to begin transporting travellers.
According to the announcement at that time, people will only be able to visit Nongsa in Batam and Lagoi in Bintan. Travellers must test negative for the coronavirus 72 hours prior to departure and again upon arrival at Batam’s Nongsapura ferry terminal or Bintan’s Bandar Bentan Telani terminal.
In November last year, Singapore announced a unilateral air vaccinated travel lane (VTL) with Jakarta.
Speaking to reporters after the conclusion of the 5th Singapore-Indonesia Leaders’ Retreat in Bintan on Jan 25, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said: "We would like to go further with that, and the Indonesians would also like to go further with their proposals. But of course, it would depend on the COVID-19 situation."
Mr Lee also said at that time that Singapore will discuss with Indonesia how it can expedite the arrangements for a travel bubble with Batam and Bintan, and ensure its success with more Singaporean visitors.
Additional reporting by Ian Cheng
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