SINCE the Swettenham Pier was established in 1903 and given a major refurbishment in 2010, its cruise terminal has handled more than a million passengers each year.
The cruise terminal handled nearly 1.1 million passengers in 2010 and the number grew to nearly 1.29 million in 2013 but dropped slightly to 1.02 million last year.
But this year’s figure could balloon to between 1.3 million and 1.5 million, according to Penang Port Commission (PPC) chairman Datuk Tan Teik Cheng.
The amazing thing about the pier is its close proximity to the Unesco World Heritage Site of inner George Town.
Many cruise terminals in the world are unable to offer this as they are built far from the urban centres.
Tourists get to enjoy what George Town has to offer as soon as they step onto the street after exiting the cruise terminal.
The arrival of the cruise ships at the pier are often celebrated by tourism players because of their spending power.
Coaches, taxis and trishaws would line the streets to pick up passengers whenever a cruise ship docks.
Recently, Penang has been named by CNN Travel as one of the 17 best places to visit in 2017.
Penang came in second after Prince Edward Island of Canada, and is one of the three destinations in Asia named on the list. Such a recognition will further promote Penang to the world.
The issue of expanding the pier’s cruise terminal recently came back into the limelight, with the PPC and the state agreeing to the need for an expansion.
Tan has called on the state to issue permanent titles for two sites to PPC as soon as possible so that the cruise terminal could be expanded.
He said the PPC needed to upgrade Swettenham Pier to cope with more cruise liners and tourists but could not as the sites belonged to the state government.
PPC is currently operating at the two sites on temporary Occupancy Certificates that must be renewed every six months.
The state has agreed to lease the sites to PPC with certain conditions.
Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng wants the state to become a partner in the expansion of the cruise terminal project and that an open tender be called for the expansion.
It is best that the two parties work out their differences and allow the expansion for the sake of the state’s tourism because the stalemate would not benefit anyone if it continues.