Belanakan

Thousands of Ming artifacts secured from shipwreck in Java Sea

By Erwida Maulia - The Jakarta Post


Over 12,400 items of Chinese ceramics believed to originate from the Ming dynasty era have been secured from a ship wreck in Belanakan waters in Subang, West Java.

The ceramics have been gathered during the past month of diving operation around and into the wreck of 50 m x 20 m ship that lies 58 meters under the surface of Java Sea.

White ceramic plates, bowls and vases with blue motives, mostly floral, construct most found items; 40 percent of which are still in good condition.

"It is predicted to be a cargo ship sunken somewhere in 1,600s... Archaeologists believe, from the blue motives of the white ceramics, that they originate from the Ming dynasty," Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry's director general for surveillance and control, Aji Sularso, said aboard a patrol ship on Wednesday after surveying the lifting of the ceramics 48 miles off the coast of Belanakan.

"Given the large size of the cargo, we predict that we need to dive for a year to secure all of its precious loads, which may amount to 1 million pieces; larger than the number of items secured from the shipwreck in Cirebon."

Aji said he expected to find gold bars among the loads so as to cover the survey and lifting costs of the artifacts, predicted to exceed US$10 million, the total costs needed to secure loads of the Cirebon shipwreck offered in a bid also on Wednesday in Jakarta.

The presence of the shipwreck along with its loads in Belanakan waters was confirmed in a survey conducted between July and October last year, following some local fishermen's finding of ceramics in their fish nets.

The lifting of the artifacts, Aji said, began in early April, with 22 professional divers specially hired to secure the precious loads from the shipwreck and brought them to the surface.

The Indonesian government, through the national committee for shipwreck loads, is partnering with local private firm PT Comexindo to conduct the survey, as well as to secure and store the precious loads.