RI gears up for first ever marine festival
Erwida Maulia , The Jakarta Post , Nusa Dua, Bali | Mon, 04/20/2009 1:32 PM | National
North Sulawesi's Manado and Bitung are preparing to host a major marine festival in August this year, which is expected to see some 7,000 sailors from more than a dozen countries as participants.
The first-ever Sail Bunaken marine festival is scheduled for Aug. 12-20, and will feature a range of marine-related activities, including a sailing competition, diving and fishing contests, a seafood festival and a yacht rally, as well as an Indonesian Fleet Review to display warships from several countries.
About 140 foreign-flagged yachts from 15 countries, including Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, the United States and Britain, will sail along the Indonesian islands from either Singapore, Malaysia's Kinabalu or Australia's Darwin harbors to North Sulawesi waters for the festival.
Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry Secretary-General Widi A. Pratikto said Saturday the event, one of three international-scale events the province will host from May to August, aims to boost Indonesia's marine tourism internationally.
Earlier, on May 11-15, North Sulawesi will host a World Ocean Conference and a Coral Triangle Initiative for similar purposes.
"Indonesia is an archipelagic nation with astonishing marine beauty. We want people to think of Indonesia when they want to see beach panoramas and rich underwater life," Widi said during a press conference in Nusa Dua, Bali, on the sidelines of a workshop to prepare for the Sail Bunaken festival.
The workshop was attended by 10 regents and mayors whose regions will serve as stopovers for rallying yachts before they head to Bitung and Manado. Among the regions are Maluku's Ambon and Tual, Southeast Sulawesi's Wakatobi, Mataram, Bali, Banjarmasin and Belitung.
Widi said the workshop was aimed at discussing and finding solutions to problems with the organization of the event, including procedures to apply the Clearance Approval for Indonesian Territory (CAIT), as well as customs, immigration, quarantine and port matters. It also addressed problems regarding entrance, docking and exit fees for the yachts, and the stopover regions' preparedness in term of infrastructure.
The stopover locations are also expected to benefit from the event, by promoting their local tourism potential and improving the local communities' economies. Yachts are expected to stay for an average of three days in some of the stopover regions, before heading to the venues in Manado and Bitung.
Chairman of the yacht rally steering committee Aji Sularso said the Indonesian government - in this case the immigration office - would ease procedures for visa applications and extensions for participants of the Sail Bunaken festival.
Aji, also the director general for the monitoring of maritime and fishery resources, said his department, along with the navy and police, would work together to ensure security for both vessels and the sailors participating in the festival.
He said most of the stopover regions have sufficient harbor infrastructure and had been used to welcome transiting yachts during the Sail Indonesia yacht rally.