Port forging ahead with RM250mil expansion


North Butterworth Container Terminal is one of six ports run by Penang Port Sdn Bhd. — Photos: CHAN BOON KAI/The Star

EXPANSION plans for the North Butterworth Container Terminal (NBCT) will forge ahead.

Penang Port Sdn Bhd (PPSB) chief executive officer Datuk Sasedharan Vasudevan said RM250mil would be spent over the next three years.

This follows the development of new industrial parks in Perak, Kedah and Perlis.

“With industrial parks in Padang Terap, Kota Perdana, Sidam and Kulim in Kedah, there is tremendous demand for port facilities in the northern region.

“The northern Perak development, especially in Kamunting, will bring high demand for cargo services too.

“We are also the gateway port for south Thailand, with transhipment of containers between the Bay of Bengal and the Far East.The facial recognition digital pass launched in Penang was the first of its kind in an Asian port.The facial recognition digital pass launched in Penang was the first of its kind in an Asian port.“Overall, our performance has improved,” he said, adding that the development of NBCT was stalled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sasedharan said PPSB was looking at doing 1.55 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent unit) this year compared to 1.44 million TEUs last year, a rise of 11%.

He said the upgrading of infrastructure at NBCT was in line with the 30-year PPC Development Master Plan (2023-2053).

He added that the present infrastructure had a maximum capacity of 2.8 million TEUs, with a trigger point at 2.3 million TEUs, after which, they would need to expand to meet future growth.

On machinery, Sasedharan said two cranes would be bought at a cost of RM40mil each.

NBCT has been affected by uncertainty over the past few years.NBCT has been affected by uncertainty over the past few years.

“It will take between 18 and 24 months for the cranes to be delivered.

“Another investment will be the purchase of equipment to upgrade the NBCT yard.

“Priority will also be given to IT development, where all port activities are to be seamlessly connected.

“State-of-the-art facial recognition technology was installed at all six Penang ports last year.

“The RM1mil facial recognition digital pass is said to be the first of its kind in an Asian port,” he highlighted.

Sasedharan: The EIA report for the NBCT development can only be obtained in 2027.Sasedharan: The EIA report for the NBCT development can only be obtained in 2027.

Uncertain future

NBCT’s expansion has been affected by the 7.2km Penang Undersea Tunnel project.

PPSB has agreed to adjust its earlier plan from seven million TEUs to four million TEUs, and reduce wharf infrastructure to 1km from 2.8km to accommodate the proposed undersea project.

Sasedharan said PPSB was being realistic as port expansion was not something that could be carry out “overnight”.

“The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report for the NBCT development can only be obtained in 2027.

“Once all the approvals are in order, only then reclamation works will begin.

“Since there is no decision from the state on the undersea tunnel or a third bridge, we need to do the planning for the TEU capacity, with and without the projects.

“We can bring up the TEUs to seven million from four million if both projects do not take off,” he said.

Vijayaindiaran: The PPC development master plan has been approved by its board.Vijayaindiaran: The PPC development master plan has been approved by its board.When contacted, Penang infrastructure and transport committee chairman Zairil Khir Johari said the state would deliberate on the matter soon.

First proposed in 2011, the tunnel project links Gurney Drive on the island with Bagan Ajam on the mainland.

The project is part of the Penang Transport Master Plan to ease traffic congestion in the state.

Penang Port Commission (PPC) general manager Vijayaindiaran R. Visvalingam said its development master plan was approved by the board following a presentation to the new PPC chairman Datuk Yeoh Soon Hin.

The development master plan prepared by international consultants Roland Berger states that the entire land available is needed for the expansion of NBCT.

It proposes two new berths and container yards to cater to the expected increase in demand.

It also states that three berths will be needed by 2033, with 10 cranes and a container yard of 56ha.

Any expansion of NBCT beyond Phase 2 would intrude into the existing proposed location for the ‘Penang 3rd Link’.

“As such, agreement from various stakeholders would be required prior to the expansion,” the master plan stated.

PPSB is licensed by PPC to operate, manage and maintain all port facilities and services as well as undertake present and future development projects.

The dedicated container terminal at NBCT was completed in 1995.

From a 350m wharf, it expanded to 600m in 1999.

An additional 100m wharf was completed in 2001, followed by another 200m wharf in 2005 including a 520m second access bridge.

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