Singapore-Batam ferry services stopped for 3 hours due to haze

Ferries leaving the harbour front terminal as they head to Batam across the haze shrouded strait of Singapore on Sept 10, 2015.
Ferries leaving the harbour front terminal as they head to Batam across the haze shrouded strait of Singapore on Sept 10, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

More than 600 passengers, half of them Singaporeans, had their travel plans delayed when ferry services between Singapore and Batam stopped for three hours yesterday afternoon due to the haze.

A spokesman for the Singapore Cruise Centre said it was notified by the Batam Harbour Master at 1pm that all ferries scheduled to leave the Indonesian island were not able to do so.

"As a result, ferries departing from Singapore were also halted," he said.

It was the first time the haze had caused the ferry services to stop.

Low visibility from the haze caused by fires in Indonesia's Riau province also led to delays at Batam's Hang Nadim International Airport in the morning, with some flights having to be re-routed.

Conditions in Singapore took a turn for the worse yesterday, with air quality reaching very unhealthy levels, while efforts intensified to bring the culprits to task.

The Singapore-listed firm facing legal action from the Government for being one of the possible culprits behind the haze stands to lose its green label status for its paper products sold here, said the Singapore Environment Council (SEC).

Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), the largest pulp and paper firm in Indonesia, sells the Nice, Jolly and Livi brands of tissue paper here with the Singapore Green Label seal on them.

The seal to endorse a product as environmentally friendly may have to go if the council finds that APP has been getting raw materials such as wood, paper or pulp from unsustainable sources.

"We have sent them a letter to declare their product sources but they have yet to respond," said SEC chairman Isabella Loh.

She said the products were issued the green label more than five years ago.

APP was served a legal notice by the National Environment Agency last Friday to supply information on its subsidiaries in Singapore and Indonesia, as well as measures taken by its suppliers in Indonesia to put out fires in their concessions.

Yesterday, the council said it would send pledge letters to some 2,800 companies this week urging them to commit to buying only sustainable palm oil products.

These are members of the Singapore Manufacturing Federation, which the council is working with to get companies to adopt green procurement practices. Such a move would exert pressure on supply sources in Indonesia to certify their palm oil products as being from sustainable sources.

Last week, outgoing Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan said having green procurement practices was a way for the Government to influence the supply chains.

The council said it was working with the ministry on this and would start with paper products.

"When the public agencies practise it, hopefully the private sector will follow suit," said SEC's Ms Loh.

"What is holding them back is that there is a lack of certified palm oil products in the market to choose from," she added.

For instance, only 10 per cent of palm oil products in Indonesia are certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, an international non-profit certification body.

•Additional reporting by Samantha Boh

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 30, 2015, with the headline 'Singapore-Batam ferry services stopped for 3 hours due to haze'. Print Edition | Subscribe