A $40 Million Ruse
Batam Island, Indonesia – The islands were calling me and with rhythms of music from South Pacific flowing in my mind, I elected to visit a couple of them about an hour boat ride off the coast of Singapore.
I checked into the Holiday Inn, Water City, Batam Island, and set out to explore my new environs. I soon discovered an industrial area and not the paradise I had hoped.
The shoreline held ship building enterprises developed and sponsored by various consortiums based in Singapore and elsewhere. Unraveling who they were and how they operated continues to be a mystery.
I met engineers and workers from Norway, who install Rolls Royce engines into ships. I thought they only made them for cars and airplanes but was informed they also manufacture for boats. And I don’t mean the ones you water ski behind.
Always looking for inside information about stocks, they disclosed they had enough work until 2012 with full employment. More orders were being processed for delivery well into the mid-2000 teens.
I frantically tried to call my broker to issue a buy order, but the hand phone did not work. I am glad my communication failed. The Norwegians calmed me down and said Rolls Royce was embroiled in the Icelandic financial fiasco. The company was so bad off it cancelled its Christmas employee dinner, apparently, a big deal for them. So much for my travels in a Rolls Royce powered yacht to be docked in the south of France.
Having never visited a ship building yard, I asked if I could get a tour. The engineers said I could give it a try.
I hired a cab and traveled about 10 kilometers to the facility. Arriving on the grounds, we passed through three different check points with the car searched at each one. This included an examination of the bottom with mirrors. The security areas were about half a kilometer apart and within sight of each other. I don’t think there was any way I could have manufactured a bomb in that short of time, but I guess it was the illusion of a strong defense.
At each point I tried to explain I was an American tourist visiting the facility at the suggestion of Rolls Royce. But they didn’t believe me. The only thing anyone heard was Rolls Royce and they waved me through after I shook hands with everyone.
The offices were located atop a long building with a warehouse underneath. To my left, a lunch area, the center held a large hall-like space, while on the right five or six cubicles were enclosed in what seemed to be painted ply wood. A name and title located near each door explained who was where in the hierarchy.
I went into last office who I thought was the lowest minion on the pole. I told the guy who I was and then he took me to the next office. I moved along these cubicles repeating the same story. The last guy introduced me as an American who wanted to purchase one of the ships. How things got changed to that was beyond me. I knew it was fruitless to continue the explanation that I was an American tourist who just wanted a tour. Nobody believed that one.
The project manager told me I could not visit the yard as I did not have the safety gear of a helmet, steel tipped boots and coveralls. We walked out onto an observation platform.
He began a narration about the skeletons of three ships currently being assembled. Sparks from a welders torch could be seen in the foreground while the South China Sea hued blue on the horizon.
I hadn’t a clue what he was talking about. At places where he paused, I exclaimed really! Wow! or you don’t say! He could have been explaining the workings of a loo for all I knew. And he was speaking English.
Afterwards, he asked me about Barack Obama, the economy and what company I represented, or who I was with. I maintained an air of mystery relating some people had sent me here because I speak Indonesian. He seemed to accept that.
As we parted company, he made me promise to contact him when I was ready to purchase. I told him I would. I later learned the price was around US$40 million for a small ship built to service the oil rigs in various parts of the world. I later signed a contract giving the maritime sounding name of thetentacle as the company. (Not really, but it was a thought)
Back at the hotel, I told my new Norwegian friends what had happened and we all had a good laugh. In all fairness, I did learn about ships and ship building. I really cannot blame the people for not believing my story about an American tourist wanting to visit a ship yard. This was probably as far fetched as if I had stated I was from Mars and needed a boat for my spacecraft.