GEORGE TOWN: Penang Port Sdn Bhd (PPSB) has announced that it will provide two weeks of free ferry services to foot passengers beginning Jan 1,2021.
It said the free services would be for two weeks until Jan 14 and was given based on the advice of the Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong.
Starting Jan 1 next year, PPSB would be providing ferry services to carry motorcycles and bicycles, it said in a statement Thursday (Dec 24).
Meanwhile, in a separate statement, Dr Wee said the 126-year-old ferry services would continue and would prioritise passenger safety and comfort.
He said several quarters had expressed regret at a decision by the ministry aimed at making Penang ferry service safer, faster and less prone to unsustainable maintenance costs, which was occurring once a month on average with the existing 47-year-old ferries.
"Passenger safety must be paramount, and therefore, a considered decision was made to modernise the ferry fleet to avoid unwanted incidents and inconvenience that may occur," he said.
Dr Wee added that he had explained to Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow on the Federal Government's plan to replace the existing ferries and to optimise the safety, sustainability and security of the passenger ferry fleet.
He said that the ministry had reiterated what had been agreed in the earlier meeting on Aug 27 in Parliament, and expressed his appreciation for Chow's understanding.
"As clarified in a statement by the Penang Port Commission and PPSB on Dec 15, regarding the future development of the Penang ferry service, the modernisation phase will begin with introducing three (passenger-only) water buses from Jan 1,2021, to be followed by two vehicle transporters that will carry only motorcycles and bicycles only, to be received in 2022.
"As stated by Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz in the Dewan Rakyat on Dec 17, a total of RM30mil had been allocated for this fleet modernisation to be released in two tranches, that is in 2021 and 2022," he said.
In an interim measure, PPSB will immediately lease two fast ferry vessels to carry passengers and employ the services of one Prasarana-owned ferry for two-wheeled vehicles, motorcycles, and bicycles to aid the transition process to the newer vessels.
Dr Wee added that a process would be initiated to seek proposals to convert the existing ferries into floating restaurants, museums, and/ or tourist cruises as suggested by various parties to highlight the contribution to the cultural and heritage identity of Penang.