Bali’s Search and Rescue team was called to launch an emergency boat evacuation in the early hours of Sunday 26th June after engine failure resulted in the boat running aground.
The passenger and vehicle ferry departed Ketapang Port, Banyuwangi, East Java at around 1.50 am. As the ferry was approaching the island of Bali the engines failed just 0.5 nautical miles from Bali’s Gilimanuk Harbour.
Speaking to the local press about the incident Gede Darmada the Head of Bali Search and Rescue said ‘”We received a report that the ship was carried by the current until it ran aground and the engine stopped at a position of approximately 0.5 Nm to the northwest from Gilimanuk Harbor’.
According to the logbook, the ship was carrying 160 passengers in addition to 13 crew members. The ferry was also carrying 21 cars, 12 pickup trucks, 1 bus, and 6 motorcycles. As soon as Jembrana Search and Rescue were alerted to the situation they launched an eight-man rescue team.
Initially Search and Rescue teams tried to tow the ferry out of the shallow waters. With little success and dangerous conditions in the dark, the Search and Rescue team made the decision to evacuate the passengers.
Passengers were helped onto a series of lifeboats which were supported by a larger Bali Police vessel that joined the rescue mission. Passengers were given life jackets and children were carried by Search and Rescue Officers to help keep them calm.
The leader of the operation Jembrana SAR Post Coordinator, Dewa Hendri told reporters that the evacuation mission was time-consuming but an overall success ‘We have carried out an evacuation with a joint SAR team from around 6 in the morning to 8:10 a.m. local time eight and ten minutes’.
Once the team was assured that all passengers and crew were safe on dry land they decided to wait until morning light to assess the plan to dislodge the stuck ferry. They are thought to be bringing in a larger tug boat that will be able to drag the ferry to the port.
Despite the 160 passengers arriving in Bali much later than anticipated the incident has not been reported to have disturbed the crossing schedule of any other ferries crossing the Bali Strait. The shallow waters around Giliamanuk Harbour have been troublesome for ferry captains in recent weeks and this may be cause for a wider discussion about the route into dock.
On Friday 27th May, just less than a month from Sunday’s incident, another car and passenger ferry ran around as it approached Gilimanuk Harbour. In this incident, it was the changing current that causes the ferry to get into trouble, rather than engine failure, yet both ships needed to be recused by a tugboat after passengers were evacuated to shore.
The ferry was carrying just 30-foot passengers and a few dozen vehicles. The Jembrana Search and Rescue teams once again came to save the day and there were, fortunately, no injuries or damage to vehicles or the ferry. The vessel was stranded for over 3 hours and despite the best efforts of the Capitan efforts to maneuver the boat back to deeper water.
The crossing from Ketapang Harbor to Gilimanuk takes just 34-minutes in good conditions and is one of the most affordable ways to travel from Bali to Java. The ferry cross is of the utmost importance to both the economies of Java and Bali. The ferry crossing is the most popular transportation route for domestic travelers from Java heading to Bali since ferry tickets are considerably cheaper than flying.
The crossing is serviced by many different ferry companies. The passenger service runs every 20-minutes, 24 hours a day. Neither the Search and Rescue teams nor Bali Police has suggested that there will be an investigation into the engine failure since there were no causalities, the responsibility will fall to the ferry company to ensure that maintenance is carried out on the boat as soon as possible.
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