Safety measures stepped up as cruise centre resumes service to Batam and Karimun

Travellers at the Singapore Cruise Centre, on July 5, 2022. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - When the Covid-19 pandemic decimated travel, the regional ferry terminal at the Singapore Cruise Centre (SCC) fell silent, suspending operations in April 2020 as infections spiked.

More than two years later, it has reopened, resuming ferry services to and from the Indonesian islands of Batam and Karimun on June 15.

With travel numbers picking up, the facility at HarbourFront Centre has boosted its Covid-19 safety measures.

Frequent cleaning and disinfection, including that carried out by a disinfection robot that is fully autonomous and pre-programmed, is now part and parcel of the daily routine at the terminal.

High-efficiency filters in the air conditioning system have also been installed, and acrylic screens are now a feature at the baggage check-in counters.

On the first day that travel resumed on June 15, 3,600 travellers passed through the facility.

As of July 4, the daily average number of travellers passing through the cruise centre was 56 per cent higher at 5,600.

As of July 4, the total number of passengers who made trips between Singapore and the two Indonesian islands since June 15 stood at 112,200.

Singapore lifted its Covid-19 travel restrictions to Indonesia in April, while the Indonesian authorities suspended pre-departure test requirements for all travellers regardless of their vaccination status on May 18. Fully vaccinated travellers between the two countries no longer need to undergo testing and quarantine.

Sales manager Rachel Liew, 50, travelled to Batam from the centre over the Youth Day long weekend last week.

Madam Liew, who went on the short getaway with her husband and daughter, said: "We are thrilled that ferry services have resumed at SCC, and we cannot wait to go for more trips when more services are available.

"My daughter enjoyed our hotel experience as it was near a beach and we aim to go to other Indonesian beaches in the future."

With her family based in Batam, Ms Lynn Sugiharto, 27, is also happy that she can now take time off to visit her dad, mum and two younger brothers.

The healthcare worker, who had not seen her family for almost two years until she went by ferry from the cruise centre on July 1, said: "I was so thrilled to be able to visit my parents again. While they missed me, they felt it was safer not to travel, which would increase the chances of being infected.

"They were still a bit nervous but I insisted on going back as it was my father's birthday on Saturday. Thankfully my colleague agreed to swap her leave with me, and I managed to surprise my dad."

Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) officers returned to man checkpoint counters, screen baggage and also provide security.

Sergeant 2 Nor Shahidah, 33, an ICA First Response Team (FRT) specialist whose duties include patrolling facilities and reacting to emergency situations, was deployed in early 2020 to screen travellers at the land checkpoints and the airport.

First Response Team specialist SGT2 Nor Shahidah Binti Abas conducting checks on a ferry docked at Singapore Cruise Centre, on July 5, 2022. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Later, she volunteered to help manage the Covid-19 situation in migrant worker dormitories.

Now back at SCC's HarbourFront Centre, SGT2 Shahidah said: "Coming back to SCC now, it is a bittersweet feeling. I recall how SCC had to be closed during the pandemic.

"Now that it has reopened and we are back to normal operations, it is as if we have emerged out of the darkness.

"It is also good to see travellers slowly coming back."

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