Pelni shipping company’s logo

A ship will come

BAU-BAU, 15 JUNE 2014

We buy ourselves two economy class tickets from Bau-Bau to Ambon. We’re supposed to show up at the pier at noon to put to sea at 1pm. But there’s still no ship in sight at noon. On the big square by the dock, however, there are plenty of itinerant traders hawking water, food and wares of all sorts, and hundreds of passengers waiting for whatever is to come. They kill time playing cards and chess, sleeping, eating, laughing, strolling, gaping. Everything goes peacefully: no agitation, no grumbling, no complaints. Everyone’s waiting patiently for the big Pelni ship to come in. Waiting is part of life in these parts, all things come in due course.

The main lines in Indonesia are operated by Pelni, the national shipping company. With a fleet of over 80 vessels, most of which were built in Papenburg, Germany, they provide regular service to large parts of this vast island kingdom. The ships are fitted out with a restaurant, karaoke bar, dancefloor, mosque, and four different passenger classes, depending on your needs, with correspondingly graduated fare schedules.

I take advantage of the opportunity to stroll over to the Coast Guard office, where I introduce myself and obtain authorization to take pictures of some of the officers of the watch. Everything goes smoothly and with plenty of good humour. Then we go out to eat, stretch our legs a bit, drink another mango juice and kill some more time reading. Later we return to the port. On the way there, I hum Lale Andersen’s song Ein Schiff wird kommen (“A Ship Will Come”). Just as I’m singing the verse: Und warte auf die fremden Schiffe aus Hong-Kong, aus Java, aus Chile und Shanghai (“And wait for the foreign ships from Hong Kong, from Java, from Chile and Shanghai”), I hear the ship’s siren sounding. It’s 1 o’clock in the morning by now. 1. A cover version of “Never on Sunday”, the title song from the movie of the same name, originally sung in Greek by Melina Mercouri.

[1] A cover version of “Never on Sunday“, the title song from the movie of the same name, originally sung in Greek by Melina Mercouri