Mutiny on the Majapahit: Crew Says
Too Dangerous to Sail On

Photo courtesy of the Majapahit crew
Ship builder and crew member Rahman in the hold of the unusually designed Spirit of Majapahit before the expedition left Jakarta. The crew claims the vessel could break up if hit by three-meter waves in the South China Sea and have refused to leave Manila.

The crew of the historic eight-country expedition of the Spirit of Majapahit, a reconstruction of a 13th-century Majapahit-era merchant ship, has refused to continue the journey and demanded to go home.

A crew member has cited safety issues, bad weather, lack of insurance and delayed payment among the problems dooming the voyage.

“Whatever it takes, we just want to go home,” the crew member, who asked not to be identified, said in an SMS message to the Jakarta Globe on Thursday.

The Spirit of Majapahit, which has 10 Indonesian and three Japanese crew members, left the Batavia Marina in North Jakarta on July 4 for a voyage that would have taken them to Brunei, the Philippines, Japan, China, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia.

When it set off, Culture and Tourism Minister Jero Wacik said the journey reflected the maritime spirit of Indonesia.

But the ship has been stuck since docking in Manila on Aug. 4, with the crew refusing to continue on to Okinawa.

The Spirit of Majapahit, built by 15 craftsmen in Madura, was promoted as unique because of its oval shape with two sharp ends designed to break through five-meter waves. But the crew says it is not as safe as advertised.

“If the boat is hit by three-meter waves it could break up. So the crew refuses to continue the trip and is asking to go home,” the crew member said.

“And the weather is not good. From the beginning, there is no insurance and no payment so far.”

Ministry of Culture and Tourism spokesman Ngurah Putra acknowledged there was a dispute but denied it was the cause of the delay. “Basically they have not departed for Okinawa due to bad weather,” he said.

“Even the Japanese crew members have recommended they return to Indonesia because of the weather.”

Vera Kilapong, from the social and cultural section of the Indonesian Embassy in Manila, told the Globe the crew also had to make some repairs.

“They stopped in Manila on Aug. 4 and they decided to stay here because they needed to fix some technical issues in the ship,” she said.

Regarding their pay, Vera said the Indonesian crew had said they needed “their rights to be fulfilled before departing for Okinawa.”

But Ngurah said it was a misunderstanding. “We made a deal before the expedition started that they would be paid when they arrived in Okinawa,” he said.

A ministry official is expected to arrive in Manila today to settle the dispute. “We are going to send the secretary general of the ministry’s history and archeology directorate to calm down the situation and solve the problem,” Ngurah said.

The venture was organized by the Majapahit Japan Association, a group of entrepreneurs who pay tribute to the history and culture of the vast archipelagic Majapahit Empire based around the island of Java from 1293 to around 1500. (Nurfika Osman)

Sumber: The Jakarta Globe, August 12, 2010

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