PETALING JAYA: Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong has taken Lim Guan Eng to task for attempting to blame the current administration for neglecting an iconic Penang ferry after the service was discontinued by the Perikatan Nasional government.
The Transport Minister said the ferry in question had been inoperable since 2019, when Lim was the Finance Minister.
The Penang Ferry Service has been undergoing major upgrade works since January 2021 and will be replaced with more efficient vessels, while the heritage ferries would serve as floating museums, restaurants or tourist attractions.
Dr Wee said the Penang ferry was sent to the Bagan Dalam dockyard next to Sungai Perai on Nov 27, 2019 as it was dilapidated and due for docking.
"Spare parts from the Netherlands were not available and the ferry has been inoperable since Nov 27, 2019 and is there until today.
"The service operator at that time was RapidFerry, a subsidiary of Prasarana," he said in a Facebook post early Sunday (May 6).
Dr Wee pointed out that Lim was the Finance Minister at that time and Prasarana is a company of the Minister of Finance Incorporated (MKD).
He said at the end of 2019, Lim had announced an allocation of RM30mil to Penang Port Sdn Bhd (PPSB) for the purpose of purchasing a new Catamaran and taking over the service from RapidFerry owned by Prasarana.
He noted that Lim had only announced the allocation but the RM30mil was not listed in the 2020 Budget.
"If Lim is angry and is asking why spare parts have not been purchased to repair this Penang Ferry, he should address the question to himself because I was not the Transport Minister, I was only an opposition MP," he said.
However, Dr Wee commended Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow for his willingness to work with the Transport Ministry and resolve problems affecting Penang.
"In fact, he himself boarded the 'speed boat' on Dec 30,2020 together with port staff before the ferry service was taken over by PPSB in early January," he said.
Dr Wee revealed that on Dec 24, Prasarana - which is owned by the Federal Government - had offered six ferries for free to the Penang government but the state government on Jan 18,2021 only agreed to accept one.
"The Transport Ministry is open and accepts the decision of the state government. Another five old ferries can be converted into museums, restaurants and special tourist ferries, but not as a mode of public transport," he said.
He also said despite the country being under a movement control order, the Penang Port Commission (SPPP) has to go through an open tender process even if it involves old or damaged ferries.