GEORGE TOWN: Penang has welcomed the government's plan to ensure the island's ferries remain in service.
"I hope it becomes a reality and the iconic ferry will continue to serve the people of Penang and visitors as well," said Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow.
He added that the state had not been officially informed of the new development.
"The main issue was about allocations – Penang Port said that if the Federal Government could bear costs, the ferry would continue to operate," he told a press conference in Komtar on Thursday (Dec 17).
Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz told the Dewan Rakyat earlier Thursday that the government would ensure that Penang's iconic ferries would remain in service.
He also said the RM30mil allocated by the previous Pakatan Harapan government for Penang Port Sdn Bhd to take over the ferry services would be channelled via two instalments next year.
"The government will ensure that Penang Port will continue Penang's iconic ferry service," he said.
Lim Guan Eng (PH-Bagan) thanked Tengku Zafrul for the decision and urged the Transport Minister to implement it.
Penang Port Commission (PPC) and Penang Port Sdn Bhd (PPSB), in a joint press conference on Tuesday (Dec 15), said the entire fleet of ferries would be grounded from Jan 1,2021, with only one being used to transport two-wheelers during the interim period until the terminal refurbishment work is completed by early 2022.
PPC chairman Datuk Tan Teik Cheng said two of the ferries would be docked at the Tanjung City Marina and used as floating museums or house restaurants, which would be offered to interested parties through open tender.
PPSB chief executive officer Sasedharan Vasudevan said the company would bring in three pedestrian water buses and two vehicle transporters to replace the ferries once the refurbishment is completed.
All four-wheelers will be using the two Penang bridges from Jan 1 as the vehicle transporters are only for two-wheelers.
Early this year, serious concerns were raised as the breakdowns of the present fleet of ferries caused disruption to commuters.
The Penang ferry service was suspended due to a technical glitch in two ferry vessels, the Pulau Angsa and Pulau Undan.
Two others – Pulau Talang and Pulau Kapas – had to be grounded for engine overhaul and upgrading work.