Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Irony between Predecessors and Successors : PELNI (part 1)

The Koninklijke Paketvaart Maatschappij (KPM) office building in Kota Lama, Semarang around 1930. And an advertising showing the services provided by KPM.
(source: Troopenmuseum and Maritiem Museum Rotterdam)
PELNI (Pelayaran Nasional Indonesia) is the national shipping company of Indonesia. According to the data on Wikipedia, Currently Pelni operates twenty-six ships; twenty-three of these are passenger ships that serve a variety of routes within the archipelago and connects all the main islands of Indonesia from Sumatra to Papua, mostly on a bi-weekly or monthly schedule. PELNI actually are nationalized company from KPM  who once get a reputation as the second largest shipping company in the world, from the early 20th century until the World War II.  For me, its ridiculous to realized that PELNI are one’s of the BUMN (eng: state-owned company) that always suffering for losses. According to Tempo daily, until May 2012, the losses recorded as big as 2 Bilion rupiahs! For the archipelago country, where the sea transportation are so importants, both for logistic distribution and mass transportation, this fact was quiest shocked. Are the government are failed to compete with the private company? Eventhough the government got a legacy from a company which ever become the 2nd largest in the world, which its also supported by up-to-date facility and management?    

The current condition of KPM office, now used by PELNI,
taken on 2012
Talking about KPM itself, KPM was established on 4th September 1888 in Amsterdam by Rotterdamsche Lloyd (RL) and Stoomvaart Maatschappij Nederland (SMN). KPM operated its vessel firstly on January 1, 1891. The company mainly focuses on regular scheduled routes for passenger and cargo cargo between islands in the East Indies and then more popular with the term as inter-island shipping post. 

Starting from 1906 the company began to expand its business with a new routes from the East Indies archipelago to the other countries with various subsidiaries such as in 1908, its opened a new routed named Java-Australie Lijn (JAL) serving across Java-Australia, followed in 1910 with a Java-Siam Lijn (JSL) serving across Java and Thailand, and the last in 1915 Deli Straits-China Lijn (DSCL) serving from accros Deli and Mainland of China.

The main hall inside the KPM office building in Semarang,
now functioned as the ticket booth, badminton courts and
motorbikes parking area.
After the Japanese occupation, the company was suffering from losses, due to many ships and infrastructure were looted by Japanese. Then in 1947 voyage overseas operations of KPM working with separate business under the name Java-China-Japan Lijn (JCJL) or across Java-China-Japan and on January 1, 1948 as a new company named, Koninklijke Java-China-Paketvaart Lijnen (KJCPL), a post-World War II efforts to revitalize the company.

The worsening relations between Indonesia and Netherlands following the West Guinea crisis, also affected the company. Its widely heard to the expulsion of Dutch descendant on Indonesia, also nationalization of Dutch Company. then On December 6, 1957, the KPM  was taken over by Indonesia government and become BUMN . Many of the small fleet of ships was subsequently sold and the employees were forced to laid off. Then now we recognize our PELNI with its problem surrounded it.  For the company which inherited the 2nd largest shipping company, PELNI should be the leaders in this shipping thingy. But yap, just like others nationalization product, its never as good as its predecessors, well I mean not yet, hopefully someday, it will be realized.

Enjoying the Holiday through Observed the H.Spiegel Building

H. Spiegel building (left side) visible on a postcard from the Dutch-Indies era (source: Olivier Johannes
Happy New Year! Its 2013 already and this holiday, was really a breakthrough for my history passion because of I met a lot of people and saw a lots of chance also supports to preserve the historical asset in Semarang city. One of them is Mas Khrisna, an Architect who works for Balai Pelestarian Peninggalan Purbakala (eng: Historical Preservation Council) who have an ideas to increase the awareness of Semarang people about the importance of Kota Lama (eng: Old Town) preservation through an event this October. He choosed a building, formerly used by NV Spiegel, to become the site of this event who has a theme Kuno-Kini-Nanti (eng: previous-now-future), such a history exhibition like Pameran Sentiling 1914, but this in the large scale. As His plan to renovate then re-functioned this building, He want to socialize it to the people in Semarang, through this event  the importance of this building and all of the heritage asset in Old Town generally. Thus He need people to support it, and one of them were me and my friends from @lopenSMG. Tuesday, January 2nd 2013, we were invited by Mas Khrisna to observe the current condition of Spiegel building, then here we go!

The Spiegel Building, front facade.
 taken on 2007
The Spiegel building, still in good contion from the outside, some of its details are remaining visible on its facade. There is a combination of decorative pattern in round shapes and horizontal lines on the facade walls.  The entrance is situated at the corner side of the building, faced directly to the street without any courtyard in front of it, a common building form in Kota Lama. Moving inside to the building, there’s a large hall with four green pillars who functioned as a 2nd floor buffer. The floor was formed by marble, but the condition were badly damaged because of once its functioned as a workshop for the heavy equipment. Moving to the 2nd floor, we’ll goonna walk through the wooden staircase which the condition is getting rotten. So as the condition on the 2nd floor, who formed from teak wood, its also already getting rotten.  Thus mas khrisna iniciate to covers it by plastic sheet, in order to protect it from the raindrop who often come inside the building because of the leaked roof. Next I moved the balcony, and suddenly the scenery of Kota Lama on the evening fascinated me. Then I imagined, how it was on the past? Where Kota lama still as the centre of people activity in Semarang city.

Inside the Spiegel Building, upon the 2nd Floor,
its appears what Mas Khrisna did, with
covered the floor with plastic sheet in order
to protect the wooden floor from the raindrop.
Generally, the building condition are 80%. But to renovate it and brought it as it origin condition , its couldn’t be easy. There’s a lot of recast by its former owner, who functioned it as the workshop. Then another problem like leaked roof, that almost happened in every corner of the building also wooden structure which already rotten. Anyway, there’s nothing that couldn’t be realize if we give our best isn’t? Just like my favourite Javanese quotes from my friends Mas Gatot, “Dalan kui raono nek alase rak dibabat, desa kui raono yen alase ora dibuka, lan kutha kui rak kedaden nek raono desa” (eng: In the Jungle, there will be no way if the bush aren’t cleared away, there’s no village if the timberland aren’t opened, and there’s no town if there’s no village who formed it). Cheers up! The hardwork are heading in the way ;)