You’ve probably seen the incredible images of Mount Agung in Bali erupting in spectacular fashion this week. Tales of havoc accompanied the eruption for those in the evacuation zones in the northern part of the island in addition to ecological and health considerations due to ash and dust. With travellers looking for alternative travel routes and experiencing delays due to intermitted airport closures, what does this mean for yachts in the region?

We spoke to Andy Shorten, the director of AYSS member the Lighthouse Consultancy which is based in Sanur in South Bali about 50 kilometers from the crater of Mount Agung. Today, they are feeling relatively minimal change in day-to-day life. “At the moment, there is little effect on the actual cruising experience, so we are fortunate that no real concerns have to be addressed regarding the safety of vessels at this time, and cruising can continue as normal.”

With over 130 volcanoes in the country, eruptions are pretty regularly recorded in Indonesia. “There used to be one volcano (Mount Komba) where we would actually take vessels to visit the eruptions. Mount Sinabung on the island of Sumatra has been erupting more or less constantly for the last few years. In 2014, Mount Sangeang erupted much closer to the Komodo National Park with no detriment to the surrounding areas or long-term effect to the cruising there. As such, this kind of thing is par for the course in this region.”

Mount Sinabung has been erupting constantly in recent years

Every day, yacht agents are used to making the impossible possible for their clients and reacting to natural disasters such as this eruption is no exception. It is something that Andy and his team are well equipped to deal with. “We often need to overcome unexpected challenges here, and we approach this in a straightforward manner in the same way we treat any other issue we face. We just have to find solutions to minimise any disruptions for the yachts. Honestly, I’m just incredibly happy that this didn’t happen in this year’s peak Komodo cruising season; had this happened in September or October when we had eight vessels here at the same time, we would have faced significant logistical challenges.”

The key here is being informed, especially when it comes to owner and guest arrivals and departures. “We had guests departing through Bali on the day of the initial airport closure, and their flight was cancelled as they sat on the plane waiting to depart. We had to charter a private aircraft for them and re-route it to avoid the ash; however, the ATC tower wouldn’t give permission to depart without knowing what the ash cloud was going to do. It wasn’t a smooth scenario and delays were encountered before the guests finally made it to their connections out.”

The Lighthouse Consultancy chartered a private plane to help guests depart following the volcano

Airport closures are also causing some delays in provisioning and spares’ procurement. “In remote local ports, our team must ship certain items to vessels, and these are often supplied through Bali. During the closures of the Bali airport, the team is coordinating the transfer of shipments by land to other islands such as Lombok or Java, for forwarding to airports nearby their cruising grounds. Delays are to be expected and considerations have to be made for additional packing since extended time in boxes could affect the survivor percentage of the shipments. Can’t put too much ice, can’t put too little, there’s no point having 50 boxes of provisions arriving and it’s all spoiled!” 
Luckily, the team have been supplying vessels for years and have great experience in handling these changes and re-routing provisions. And for the coming days, with time to plan, flights are being deferred to different airports until air travel has stabilized. The Lighthouse Consultancy has already re-routed several flights for incoming yachts and will be monitoring the situation for yachts arriving for cruising in Komodo and Raja Ampat in the coming weeks.

Andy does not have too many concerns at this time. “The actual cruising grounds are so large, and there is a significant distance between these areas and the eruption of Agung that they are not affected. Anyone wanting more specific up-to-date information is always welcome to get in touch – that’s why we are here; our responsibility is to solve problems for our yachts and help them to focus purely on the experiences of their owners – if we don’t find solutions, we really wouldn’t be doing our job!”
The Lighthouse Consultancy’s dedicated team has been planning, supporting, and leading cruises across Indonesia for over a decade. The country’s 17,000+ islands offer visiting yachts a cruising area that is in fact as large as the continental United States. With two main cruising grounds, the Komodo National Park & the Raja Ampat Islands, and four or five other smaller cruising grounds, there is an abundance of options to create a magical cruising experience. Feel free to get in touch for more detailed information on current conditions or on cruising Indonesia via email or give them a call on +62 (0)361 289 587.