To the Far East – PELNI (Pelayaran Nasional Indonesia) is Indonesia’s national shipping company, state-owned and operated, serving the entire Indonesian archipelago, east-to-west, north-to-south.
There is a large fleet of vessels linking all of Indonesia’s major ports and most of the archipelago’s outlying areas. Many of PELNI’s ships operate set routes around the islands, either on a fortnightly or monthly schedule. The ships usually stop for a few hours in each port for cargo and passengers. The fleet’s main units are an attractive series of German-built colourful vessels carrying up to 5,000 passengers in six classes plus freight and lo-lo – mainly containers.
Sumatra, Java, Bali, Nusa Tenggara and Sulawesi are all connected by regular car ferries enabling users to islandhop from Sumatra to West Timor. Local ferries run several times a week, daily, or even hourly on the busy Java–Bali–Lombok–Sumbawa routes. Some tourist guides point out there are drawbacks to sea journeys in such waters.
For example, one says that economy fares can be quite cheap, but when paying for higher levels of shipboard comfort, budget airlines can then become competitive. Also: “getting aboard a (local ferry) can leave you bruised - it is truly every man, woman and child for him or herself as people try to grab space”. Still, it all adds to the spice of remote travelling by ferry, remote for a European that is, but this is everyday life in Indonesia.