August 17 is Indonesia’s Independence Day. Usually, I celebrate by attending events held in my neighborhood and then a flag ceremony at the nearest government office. But this year, it is different as I have an opportunity to celebrate on a Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) ship.
I started my journey on the evening of August 16. It was not easy getting to the ship. From where I live in the city of Surabaya, I travelled to Sampang Regency which is approximately 85 km away to get to the shore base of the ship management company for a briefing and inspection of my carry-on and personal items. Matches and firearms are prohibited.
“The inspection is to ensure the safety of all crew members in the middle of the sea,” said Bimo Aryo, Shorebase Superintendant.
After that, I continued on to the Port of Branta, Pamekasan Regency, to board a utility boat, which took an hour to reach the FPSO in the Java Sea. For me, the hardest part of the journey was getting on to the FPSO as the structure was so tall and everyone has to use a rope basket, which is lifted by a crane from the utility boat to the deck of the FPSO.
“It feels like paragliding, if the wind is strong, the basket will rock constantly. If the wind is calm, then it is ok. But for a first timer, it can be a very nervous experience. My advice is always follow the safety instruction of the crew on duty,” said Umar, a crew member who was with me at that time.
There are strict regulations on the ship. While working, the crew has to have safety goggles, overalls, helmets and emergency breathing equipment, among others.
Ship captain Boy Valentino said: “These tools are essential as we are working in dangerous environment. Also, there are prohibitions like cellphones can only be used in accommodation area and nowhere else, disposal of garbage must be separated, fires must not be lighted carelessly, not recommended to lock rooms due to need for rescue in case of emergency, footwear must be worn at all times, etc.”
When I arrived, crew members who were not on duty were busily taking part in several competitions like table tennis, karaoke and digital games. Because of the coming holiday, the mood was lively. Everyone was in a celebratory mood, even those that are not Indonesians.
A Canadian crew member said: “It has been like this for a week already. There are many activities and competitions leading up to Independence Day. It is great and we enjoy taking this chance to interact with our Indonesian colleagues. There was even one American colleague who won the karaoke competition.”
I stayed the night onboard the ship. The next morning at around 6.30 am, all Indonesian crew members joined the flag ceremony to commemorate Independence Day. The entire crew stood in formation at the stern, which is also the Heli Deck. The wind speed on this morning was 15 knots and the waves were half a meter high. Standing tall and at attention in this situation was not easy at all.
Despite the tough condition, pride was seen on all the crew members’ faces. When Indonesia’s red and white national flag was hoisted, they saluted proudly.
Captain Boy said: “Our Indonesian colleagues took two months, during their spare time, to prepare for the celebration and this flag ceremony. They did this in spite of their busy schedule and difficult job. Instead of using their spare time to rest and relax, they showed love for their country.”
All photos credit: Ibnu Wibowo