As usual, in any impending privatisation exercise, they only want the profitable bits, while the loss-making or difficult bits remain for the public to bear.

In the case of Penang port, Penang Port Sdn Bhd wants to surrender the ferry services and other loss-making bits while keeping the potentially lucrative port.

PPSB only wants to hand over the ferries to the federal government (see this Insider report) but it wants to keep the port.

By right, both the port and the ferries should fall under the state government. Yes, the ferries can be made to run more efficiently, but as a form of public transport, the goal should not be to maximise profit but to promote a sustainable transport mode.

We can do without the yacht marina, which would be a waste of public funds. Let the marina be a private initiative if it is so feasible.

And the port should come under the state government. As for the dredging, the Penang state government should ask serious questions about the RM355m price tag rather than just accepting it unquestioningly. Whose company is the real beneficiary of the dredging work? And how do we verify the volume that the company claims it will dredge? Federal government funds are also our money, and so any large payment for dredging must be independently audited.

The Chief Minister said today:

The Penang State Government Is Willing To Help Out Penang Port Sdn Bhd (PPSB) From Sustaining Yearly Losses Of More Than RM18 Million By Taking Over Tanjung City Marina, Swettenham Pier And The Ferry Services.

The Penang state government is willing to help out Penang Port Sdn Bhd (PPSB) from sustaining yearly losses of more than RM18 Million by taking over Tanjung City Marina, Swettenham Pier and the ferry services. PPSB managing director Datuk Ahmad Ibnihajar had confirmed that the Transport Ministry and Penang Port Commission(PPC), and not PPSB, was to blame for the failed RM43 million Tanjung City marina project, which fell into disrepair following a storm in 2009.

Ahmad said the failed marina was due to bad design and PPSB had in 2006 told PPC that the design was faulty in 2006. Clearly the Transport Ministry and PPC must bear full responsibility for mishandling the design, construction as well as failing to maintain the Tanjung city marina from 2006 until now when the entire marina has sunk to the bottom of the sea.

All those involved in the PPC and Transport Ministry from this period 2006-2012 should respond to Ahmad’s expose that the design fault in the Tanjung City Marina, was doomed to fail right from the very beginning. A full explanation must be given on why the PPC and Transport Ministry wasted RM43 million in public funds to implement a doomed to fail project and whether there are any more of doomed to fail projects.

The next public concern is whether the important Swettenham Pier is also one of those projects as it serves a critical link in serving cruise ships that cater to growing number of foreign tourists. The PPC and Transport Ministry’s poor management has caused a complete loss of public confidence. The state government is willing to take over and is confident of turning around the Swettenham Pier, Tanjung City Marina and the ferry services. Even the ferry services can be well run by engaging professionals with expertise as was done in the past.

The state government would also press the Federal government to fulfil its obligations as operator of Penang Port by immediately undertaking the RM355 million project of deepening of the north channel from 11 meters to 15 meters. Deepening the channel is necessary to handle bigger container ships to ensure sustainable revenue growth, which was only RM329 million last year and a slight increase this year, which is low for a significant port like Penang serving one of the most dynamic manufacturing clusters in the world.

LIM GUAN ENG

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