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    Aug 21, 2014

    Do behave, ferry operator urges Batam-bound travellers

    A TRAVEL advisory was issued yesterday by a HarbourFront ferry operator, telling Singaporean travellers to behave themselves when they try to clear immigration in Batam.

    This comes after a Sunday Times report highlighting how immigration officials at Batam Centre have recently begun sending passengers back to Singapore for talking too loudly.

    Batamfast, one of three HarbourFront ferry operators that takes passengers to Batam Centre, put up the travel advisory on its website yesterday morning.

    It urged passengers to display "discreet and courteous behaviour" and to refrain from unnecessary interactions with others.

    Another operator, Sindoferry, said it has also begun warning passengers about the strict rules in Batam.

    Ms Cherille Figueroa, Batamfast's station manager, said the rules have had a minor impact on passenger numbers but declined to reveal specifics.

    Traffic to Batam Centre is down at least 5 per cent for operator Wavemaster Holidays Club, said its operational manager Shahzan Shah.

    "More people go to Harbourbay or Sekupang," he said, referring to two other terminals on the island where the rules are not as strict.

    Wavemaster ferries about 500 passengers to the island each day, with the number doubling on weekends, he added.

    In the last two weeks, Batam Centre officers have barred more than 50 Singaporeans from entering, immigration office spokesman Heriyanto confirmed on Tuesday to Indonesian news website Detiknews.

    Checks with tour agencies revealed that these immigration rules were not limited to Batam.

    "A few months ago, we had a group of more than 20 tourists sent back from Bintan," said Mr Vincent Kong, an agent with Chan Brothers Travel.

    The group of Asian expats, who were on a company retreat, were drunk and talked loudly at the immigration terminal, he said.

    Since then, the firm has been cautioning customers headed to Indonesia to behave.

    According to the Singapore Cruise Centre, about 5,000 travellers head to Batam each weekday, and double that on the weekend.

    Still, young Singaporeans like Miss Amanda Ler, 23, are unfazed by the strict rules, which forbids talking in the immigration queue and using handheld mobile devices.

    "I like that (the beaches) are scenic and quiet. It's nice to be able to get away from Singapore," she said.

    "I don't think the rules are that big a deal, as long as you are mindful of them."