KMP Tampomas II[a] was a roll on-roll off car and passenger ferry owned by the Indonesian shipping company Pelni that burned and sank in the Java Sea while sailing from Jakarta to Ujung Pandang, South Sulawesi on 27 January 1981. This disaster resulted in the deaths of hundreds of passengers.

Tampomas II-kompas.jpg
Tampomas II on fire in 1981
  • Central No.6 (1971–1975)
  • Emerald (1975-1980)
  • Great Emerald (1980)
  • Tampomas II (1980-1981)
  • Central Ferry Co/Nichimen KK, Kobe (1971–1975)
  • Arimura Sangyo KK, Kobe (1975–1980)
  • Komodo Marine SA, Panama (1980)
  • PT Pelayaran Armada Niaga Nasional, Jakarta (1980-1981)
BuilderMitsubishi Heavy Industries, Shimonoseki, Japan
Launched20 August 1971
IdentificationIMO number7118428
FateCaught fire 25 January 1981 and later sank
General characteristics
Class and typeRORO car and passenger ferry
Length128.6 m (421 ft 11 in)
Beam22.0 m (72 ft 2 in)
Propulsion2 x diesel engines
Speed19 knots (35 km/h; 22 mph)


Tampomas II, originally named Central No.6, was produced in 1971 by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Shimonoseki, Japan. It was a RoRo (Roll On-Roll Off) vessel of the screw-steamer type measuring 6153 GRT. The ship had a capacity of 1,500 passengers, with a maximum speed of 19.5 knots (36.1 km/h; 22.4 mph). It had a width of 22 metres (72 ft) and a length of 128.6 metres (422 ft).[1]

The ship was purchased by PT. PANN (Pengembangan Armada Niaga Nasional or National Commercial Fleet Development) from Comodo Marine Co. SA, Japan for US$8.3 million, and then Pelni repurchased it from PT. PANN on a ten-year lease contract. Many were confused at the high price of this ship, because it was offered to other private liner companies for only US$3.6 million. Various parties, including Japan, stated that the ship was no longer seaworthy because it was already 25 years old at the time of the purchase. Once operated, this ship was directly assigned to serve the routes JakartaPadang and JakartaUjung Pandang, which were the busiest routes at that time. Every time the ship made port, it was only given a four-hour break before sailing again. Repairs and routine maintenance on the ship's machinery and equipment was done in a perfunctory fashion considering its age.

However, despite the substandard maintenance, the maiden voyage of Tampomas II was set for 2 June through 13 June 1980. A number of journalists and members of the House of Representatives were invited to join the voyage. On this cruise, several members of the House had witnessed and also had questions about the engine that had broken down several times during the trip. A Member of Parliament from the PDIP party, Ahmad Soebagyo, mentioned various irregularities during the cruise, including the ship was circling in the same radius due to the malfunctioning of its engine automatic regulator buttons and the cancellation of a show event on the ship due to a prolonged electrical failure. According to a reporter, the engine broke down six times during the voyage.

The disasterEdit

Tampomas II departed from Tanjung Priok harbor on Saturday, 24 January 1981, at 07:00, and was estimated to arrive in Ujung Pandang on Monday, January 26, 1981, at 22:00 local time. A pilot skipper mentioned that one of the ship's engines had broken down before leaving.

The ship carried dozens of motor vehicles, including a SAKAI steam roller, Vespa scooters, etc., which were parked in the car deck. The manifest mentioned 200 motor cars, 1,055 registered passengers and 82 crew members on board. The estimated total passengers, including stowaways, was 1442.

Around 20:00 on 25 January, at 114°25'60"E, 5°30'0"S, near the Masalembu Islands in the Java Sea (in the administrative area of East Java Province), and in stormy weather, some parts of the engine experienced fuel leaks, and cigarette butts coming down from the vents ignited the leaking fuel. The crews saw the fire and tried to snuff it out using portable fire extinguishers, but failed. The fire grew larger in the engine compartment because of the open deck doors. It caused a power cutoff for two hours, and the emergency generator failed and any effort to extinguish the fire was halted because it was deemed impossible. The fuel that was still in every vehicle caused the fire to spread and burned up all the decks quickly. Thirty minutes after the fire started, the passengers were ordered to go to the upper deck and board the lifeboats. However, the evacuation process went slowly because there was only one door to the upper deck. Once they got to the upper decks, none of the crew nor the ship's officers directed them to the lifeboats. Some of the crew members even selfishly lowered the lifeboats for themselves. There were only six lifeboats, each with a capacity of only 50 people. Some passengers desperately dived into the sea, and some frantically waited for rescue.

The first ship to conduct a rescue mission was the KM Sangihe, with Captain Agus K. Sumirat as the skipper. Sumirat was Abdul Rivai's classmate in the class of 1959 when they were studying at Academy Ilmu Pelayaran (Maritime Academy). Sangihe was travelling from Pare-pare to Surabaya for engine repair. Sangihe's first deck officer, J. Bilalu, was the first to see a puff of smoke to the west and thought the smoke was coming from Pertamina's offshore oil rig. Sangihe's wireless operator, Abu Akbar, sent an SOS message at 08:15. KM Ilmamui joined the rescue effort at 21:00, followed four hours later by the tanker Istana VI and other ships, including Adhiguna Karunia and PT. Porodisa Line's KM Sengata.

In the morning of 26 January, the Java Sea was hit by torrential rain. The fire began to spread to the engine room, where there was unisolated fuel. As a result, in the morning of 27 January, there was an explosion in the engine room which created an entrance for the sea water to fill the compartments. The generator and the propeller room filled with seawater, which resulted in the ship having a 45° list.

Finally, at 12:45 on 27 January (about 30 hours after the first spark), the ship sank to the bottom of the Java Sea, along with 288 people in the lower decks.

Captain Abdul Rival was the last to leave the ship, he sent a message to the skipper of Sangihe, "Please send me water and food, because I am going to stay on the ship until the last minute". The message was conveyed through Bakaila, a crew member who successfully crossed over to Sangihe. But the request was not fulfilled by Sumirat.


Rescuers estimated that 431 people were killed (143 bodies were found and 288 people were lost with the ship), while 753 people were rescued. Other sources put the number of victims as much larger, with up to 666 people killed. Of note, Palace VI managed to save 144 Tampomas II passengers and discovered four bodies, while Sengata saved 169 people and discovered two bodies, while another ship, KM Sonne discovered 29 dead bodies, including Captain Abdul Rival.

The wireless operator, Odang Kusdinar, survived, he was found with 62 passengers in a lifeboat near Duang Duang Island, 240 km east of where Tampomas II sank, on Friday, January 30, 1981, at 05:00.


Minister of Transportation Roesmin Nurjadin, in his explanation to the press at the office of the Department of Transportation, said that an abnormal thing happened in the engine room. The disorder occurred in the vehicle deck space, especially on a two-wheeled vehicle located in the rear, when a shock wave from the sea that was strong enough to raise sparks and allow a fire to spread. Machinist Wishardi Hamzah said that Tampomas II did not have a smoke detection system.

The investigation, led by Attorney Bob Rush Efendi Nasution, did not provide meaningful results, because all errors were blamed on the crew[citation needed]. There is an impression that this case was intentionally covered up by the government at that time, although many in parliament demand a more serious investigation.[2]


In a TV broadcast on 29 January, the Governor of South Sulawesi Andi Oddang declared three days of mourning and instructed the populace to lower flags to half-mast.[3]

In popular cultureEdit

  • Iwan Fals created a song about the sinking entitled "Celoteh Camar Tolol dan Cemar" ("Babble Seagull Fools and Blackened")[4]
  • Ebiet G. Ade created a song about the sinking entitled "Sebuah Tragedi 1981" ("A 1981 Tragedy"), found on the album "Langkah Berikutnya ("Next Step"), which was published in 1982[4]

See alsoEdit

List of maritime disasters


  1. ^ KMP is the Indonesian acronym for Kapal Motor Penumpang or "Motor Passenger Vessel"


  1. ^ "Single Ship Report for "7118428"". Miramar Ship Index (subscription). Wellington, New Zealand: R. B. Haworth. Retrieved 30 January 2020.
  2. ^ Marshall Ingwerson (28 January 1981). "Sinking of Indonesian ocean liner puts new focus on ship safety reforms". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 25 September 2013.
  3. ^ FM/MM/PAM (31 January 1981). "Untuk Mengenang Korban Tampomas II: Rakyat Sulsel Berkabung Selama Tiga Hari". Kompas. p. 1. Retrieved 10 April 2021. Tanggal 29 Januari melalui siaran TV Ujungpandang, Gubernur Sulawesi Selatan Andi Oddang menyerukan kepada seluruh rakyat Sulsel menaikkan bendera setengah tiang, sebagai tanda berkabung Pemda dan rakyat Sulsel atas musibah Tampomas II. Pengibaran bendera tersebut selama
  4. ^ a b Asriat Ginter (2007). Musisiku. Reuters. p. 286. GGKEY: 6YZ5LLBTK8Q. Retrieved 22 May 2012.

External linksEdit