Wednesday May 21, 2008 THESTAR
BUTTERWORTH: The ferry service between here and Penang island will not be scrapped despite losses of more than RM50mil over the past four years.
State Public Works, Utilities and Transportation Committee chairman Lim Hock Seng said the Finance Ministry, which owns service operator Penang Port Sdn Bhd (PPSB), had made it clear that the service must not be stopped for any reason.
“We will instead upgrade the ferry service. We may also introduce catamarans to complement the existing services.
“However, the catamarans will only be used once approval is given by the Federal Government,” he told reporters Tuesday after attending a briefing on the ferry service and visiting the ferry terminal here.
PPSB chief operating officer Mohd Niana Merican Abd Kadir Merican said recently that the vehicular ferry service would be scrapped once the expansion of the Penang Bridge was completed in September 2009.
He said the company planned to operate a speedboat ferry service, as it was cheaper and more efficient.
Second Finance Minister Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop then said that any decision to scrap the ferry service would be made only by the Government.
“We have not decided on anything. The matter has not even been tabled to the Cabinet for consideration. At present, as far as the Finance Ministry is concerned, there is no issue over this,” he said.
Lim said the ferry service was running at a loss due to many reasons, including higher fuel price and low passenger and traffic volume.
PPSB posted a loss of RM12.11mil for its ferry service operations in 2004, RM13.4mil in 2005, RM10.73mil in 2006 and RM14.69mil last year.
Currently, six ferries ply between here and the island while two others are on standby and under maintenance.
The six ferries make 120 trips daily, with each trip costing PPSB RM772. The company makes RM421 for each full-load trip, resulting in a loss of about RM350 for each trip.
Lim said an average of 4,000 cars, 5,500 motorcycles, 500 lorries and 6,000 passengers used the ferry daily.
“All in, 110,560 cars used the ferry last year compared to 1.24 million cars which crossed the bridge during the period,” he added.
He said PPSB could not raise ferry fares without the Government’s approval despite suffering annual losses.
He added that the service may face a greater challenge when the expansion of the Penang Bridge was completed and the second bridge was ready in 2011.