Penang govt to consider underwater tunnel after NBCT master plan finalised at year-end

GEORGE TOWN: The state government will consider the implementation of the underwater tunnel once the North Butterworth Container Terminal (NBCT) Expansion Master Plan is finalised by the Penang Port Commission (SPPP) in December this year.

State infrastructure, transport and digital economy committee Chairman Zairil Khir Johari said that the review received from SPPP shows that ship navigation area in the 2.2km span of the port's northern waters needs to be maintained to ensure a safe space for vessel movement.

"With the trend towards the construction of larger ships and optimal ship sizes ranging from 13,000 to 15,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) to enter or dock at the port, these ships are expected to have a maximum draft of 16m,” he said.

Zairil added that the minimum safe depth for the passage of these sized vessels is 23m from the sea bottom.

"One of the considerations for the underwater tunnel project is the alignment of the tunnel so it will not pose a hindrance or obstruction to the extension of additional docks," he said at the winding-up session of the state legislative assembly on Thursday (Nov 23)

The project measuring 6.5km and involving three main roads is one of the projects included in the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) with a total value of RM46bil.

However, the cost of the tunnel including the three main road projects - Tanjung Bungah-Teluk Bahang (package one), Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Highway-Bandar Baru Farlim, Air Itam (package two), and Pankor Road-Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Highway (package three) - is RM6.34bil.

In a separate development, Zairil said that the mobile broadband penetration rate in Penang has increased by 169%, surpassing the national rate of 133.3%.

He said for fixed broadband penetration, it is 58.6%, exceeding the national rate of 49.1%.

"The speed of mobile broadband in Penang is 51.74Mbps compared to the national speed of 48.1Mbps. As for the 4G network coverage percentage, it is 99.85% in Penang's populated areas as of October of this year,” he added.

Zairil then said that this coverage rate exceeds the national target of 96.96% by the end of 2023.

He said the state government in collaboration with the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) is working to address the unsatisfactory 4G coverage in some areas across Penang.

He added that 116 new transmitter structures have been installed and are operational and added that 2,044 existing transmitters have been upgraded to the 4G network.

He said improvement work is still ongoing to ensure that 4G coverage meets the needs of the population, especially in rural areas.

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