WITH the number of passenger boat operators in Kuala Terengganu decreasing by the day, they may soon be a thing of the past for this east coast town.
Now, only 17 boats are operating compared to the previous 80.
Most operators have resorted to selling their boats to buyers from Tasik Kenyir in Hulu Terengganu, Kelantan and Pahang as the number of passengers has dropped, making it difficult for them to bear the operating costs.
Ali Muda, 72, from Kampung Seberang Takir, said he had been transporting passengers from Kuala Terengganu to Seberang Takir for the past 50 years but many things have changed over the decades.
“Long ago, there were so many of us waiting eagerly for passengers to board our boats and the jetty was a hive of activity. Those days, I could get up to 200 passengers a day.
“Sadly, these days I am lucky if I can ferry 20 passengers who are mostly elderly traders from Pasar Payang.
“Since the 1960s, the fare was only increased by 20sen, from 80sen to RM1,” he said at a ceremony to present aid to boat operators in Seberang Takir, Terengganu.
State Tourism, Culture and Information Technology Committee chairman Ariffin Deraman presented the aid totalling RM19,000 to 17 boat operators.
Ali decided to retire and handed over the boat to his nephew to continue with the business that was passed down in the family for generations.
His friend, Harun Ismail, 70, from Kampung Teluk Ketapang, foresees that the passenger boat business would come to an end soon as the people now have several alternatives, including travelling by road.
“The operators too are facing stiff competition from the Pulau Warisan and Islamic Civilisation Park (TTI) boat operators,” he said, adding that he would continue with the business as this has
been part of his life, apart from being a fisherman.
“Although my income is much lower now, I am grateful that I managed to raise my children by ferrying passengers on my boat,” said Harun.
He said the passenger boat business would be further affected when the drawbridge connecting Kuala Terengganu and Kuala Nerus is ready soon.
Ariffin hopes with the Kuala Terengganu Heritage Waterfront tour package introduced by the state government, the welfare of the boat operators will be protected.He said the tour package would allow tourists to travel along Sungai Terengganu on passenger boats to locations such as Pasar Payang, Kampung Cina, Pulau Warisan, TTI, Pulau Duyong, Seberang Takir fishing village and Kampung Jeram.
“The parties involved will meet this month to discuss further on the tour package and ways to upgrade the existing passengers boats.
“I am confident that with the Heritage Waterfront tour package, the passenger boat service will return to its glory days and help promote this state as a popular destination in this region,” he said.