Surge in courier services as Indonesians observe fasting and quarantine
By Merliyani Pertiwi
JAKARTA, NNA – While millions of Indonesians stay at home in the past few months, delivery workers have been kept busy as demand for courier services jumped like never before.
Most courier companies interviewed have reported the surge rising above 30 percent than normal because of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan and communities adopting restrictions such as staying at home to curb the spread of novel coronavirus since March.
Eri Palgunadi, vice president of marketing at PT. Tiki Jalur Nugraha Ekakurir (JNE), said while business has remained stable during the pandemic, there was a noticeable increase in the first quarter as preparations for the fasting month picked up and more people started to confine themselves at home.
Many communities across the archipelago had already implemented their own partial lockdowns before the government suspended domestic flights, long-distance and inter-city train services and ferry operations on April 23 just as Muslims began to observe their daily fast.
Such services were only allowed for commercial cargo, medical and migrant worker evacuation and residents of small islands.
Palgunadi said shipments for Ramadan month and the ensuing Eid al-Fitr holiday would normally increase by more than 30 percent but because many people would not be traveling back to their hometown for the holiday this year, he estimated an additional increase of 20 percent.
Many Muslims working in capital Jakarta and urban centers are expected to send parcels to their families as the government has banned the yearly exodus of workers to prevent the contagion from spreading further.
Flights are banned until June 1, sea travel restricted till June 8 while inter-city trains will only start running again on May 31, a week after the end of Ramadan month this weekend.
“We hope that the shipping of goods will continue smoothly until the peak before Eid al-Fitr. We also believe the activity of shipping goods remains high, because of the homecoming travel ban from the government this year,” Palgunadi told NNA.
JNE has a fleet of 4,000 vehicles serving its network of 7,000 locations sprawled throughout Indonesia. On average, the company delivers 1.3 million to 1.4 million packages daily or more than 20 million a month.
The sharp rise in demand for freight forwarding during the coronavirus crisis was also reported by online app-based courier service provider, Anteraja. Chief Executive Suyanto Tjoeng said shipments have doubled from the normal volume of 100,000 units a day.
Tjoeng believes the increase could hit 70 percent when figures in Ramadan month and the peak for Eid al-Fitr are combined. Contributing to the spike is the increase in online shopping as a result of the restrictions on travel and social interaction.
PT. Global Jet Express (J&T Express) has seen demand for its service in April and May rising by 15 percent from the same period last year. Before this peak season, the company had delivered up to an average high of one million packages per day from the end of 2019 until the start of large-scale social restrictions in April, said its spokeswoman, Elena.
She noted that 700,000 packages were delivered daily during the Ramadan month of 2018. But last year's figures had almost tripled to 2 million a day.
However, the company still has to navigate through air and land transport restrictions in order to optimize its operations, added Elena.
In fact, domestic and international lockdowns have impacted on the volume of cargo especially those from abroad.
According to data collated by PT Angkasa Pura Kargo, cargo passed through Jakarta's Soekarno-Hatta Airport fell 11 percent to 127,697 tons in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period in 2019.
"This is due to the large-scale social restrictions that caused some airports to be closed, which is hampering our delivery system. Besides, airlines also adjusted their schedules for cargo flight services,” Riyanto Cahyono, director of operations and commercial at PT Angkasa Pura Kargo, told NNA.
Riyanto said while the overall shipment of goods during the corresponding shutdown and festive periods would be much higher than that of the first quarter, operations had not been optimal because of transport restrictions in some regions.
The Indonesian government relaxed its restrictions on transportation on May 7 to facilitate the mobility of medical workers and daily wage workers, delivery of medical supplies and staple food as well as the repatriation of cruise crew and Indonesian migrant workers from overseas.
But the ban on the mass migration of local residents returning to their hometowns to celebrate the Eid holiday remains.
Indonesians working in Singapore and Malaysia, which have two of the largest Indonesian communities abroad, have been urged by the Indonesian government not to return home during this period as new cases of coronavirus infection surged in the past week.