Better ferry experience soon

Dr Wee (in dark blue) and Tan (right) at the Sultan Abdul Halim Ferry Terminal to inspect the upgrading works. — LIM BENG TATT/The Star

UPGRADING works of Raja Tun Uda Ferry Terminal on Penang island and Sultan Abdul Halim Ferry Terminal in Butterworth are ahead of schedule and expected to be completed by mid next year.

Penang Port Sdn Bhd (PPSB) chief executive officer Datuk Sasedharan Vasudevan said works were 7% ahead of schedule and the foundation of the project had been laid.

“We are supposed to be at 23%, but instead works are now 30% complete, making us 7% ahead of schedule.

“We expect them to be completed with both lanes usable by July next year.

“Once completed, there will be ticketing booths, retail outlets, a hawker centre overlooking the island and free WiFi to allow for more activities while passengers are there.

“Access will also be integrated with bus terminals at Penang Sentral in Butterworth and the railway station beside it. Users will be able to enjoy a better experience in using the ferries,” he said on Thursday.

He accompanied Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong to board the fast boat ferry across the channel and inspect the Sultan Abdul Halim ferry terminal at the Butterworth project site.

Sasedharan, however, noted that they were facing some challenges in obtaining materials and labour.

He said the entire ferry service makeover would cost about RM100mil, including the arrival of a fleet of four new ferries costing RM16mil each.

A total of RM30mil is being spent on transforming the Raja Tun Uda terminal on the island and Sultan Abdul Halim terminal next to Penang Sentral in Butterworth.

Dr Wee and Tan boarded the Star Pisces during a visit to the Swettenham Pier Cruise Terminal.Dr Wee and Tan boarded the Star Pisces during a visit to the Swettenham Pier Cruise Terminal.

The four new ferries will be ready for service by mid-2023.

They can each take in about 250 passengers, including two-wheelers.

The Transport Ministry would contribute RM30mil, with the first RM15mil disbursed this month and the balance to be given next year, while PPSB would pump in RM70mil for the upgrade and purchase of new ferries.

Penang’s ferry service started in 1894 using steamships. The fleet had been replaced many times over the years.

This previous fleet of boxy, double-deck old ferries were commissioned between 1971 and 2004.

The iconic Penang ferries ceased operation on Dec 31 last year, with only a single ferry now carrying two-wheelers with pedestrians plying from the ferry terminal between the island and the mainland.

A Ro-Ro boat is also being used to carry two-wheelers with pedestrians, while fast boats are used for foot passengers to travel between the island and mainland.

All four-wheelers are presently using the two Penang bridges to cross over the Penang channel.

Earlier, Dr Wee and Penang Port Commission (PPC) chairman Datuk Tan Teik Cheng boarded the Star Pisces cruise ship by Genting Cruise Lines at Swettenham Pier Cruise Terminal.

Satisfied that all safety measures were in place, Dr Wee congratulated the cruise company for being the first international cruise line to restart in the country.

He then witnessed Tan handing over RM150,000 from PPC to the National Disaster Relief Fund for victims affected by the recent floods.

“We hope that the contribution would help alleviate the burden of the flood victims,” said Tan.

Both Dr Wee and Tan also witnessed the handover of a mock key to a van from MMC Group, which owns PPSB, to the Jalan Rozhan voluntary fire brigade before handing out aid assistance to trishaw riders at the cruise terminal.

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