Big plans are in store for Penang Port, it would seem. But the Penang state government does not appear to have been kept in the loop.
Penang Port was ‘privatised’ in 1994 to Penang Port Sdn Bhd (PPSB) as the terminal operator, which comes under the federal Finance Ministry. The Penang Port Commission (PPC), on the other hand, continues to exist as a regulatory port authority under the Transport Ministry. Now, PSPB has major plans for a free commercial and industrial zone within the port area, a halal hub and a ‘tank farm’. (These activities may also entail massive land reclamation on the mainland – what is the environmental impact? – north of Butterworth.)
What is the impact of all this on the state government’s own plans for a halal hub and on the existing free trade and industrial zones elsewhere in Penang? From what I hear, there has been no consultation between Penang Port and the Penang state government (you know, the state government elected by the people of Penang and that is answerable to them) on these expansion plans.
Who gets to approve the land reclamation for the tank farm on the mainland? The larger question for the longer term is, shouldn’t the port of Penang come under the state government’s jurisdiction?
Is the federal government trying to by-pass the Penang state government in the development process through
- the plans for Penang Port that go beyond simple port expansion;
- its allocation of heritage conservation funds via the Finance Ministry;
- mega-projects such as Penang Sentral;
- the dubious Botanic Garden projects; and
- the Penang Hill Railway ‘upgrade’
in effect creating a parallel administration in the state that falls outside the purview of the Penang State Assembly? Thus, it makes it difficult for the people’s elected reps in the Assembly to scrutinise the spending of such big money (which, in certain cases like Penang Sentral, could be more than the entire annual budget of the Penang state government).
This article from the Business Times:
Potential to return to glorious trading days
By Marina Emmanuel
Potential investors have approached Penang Port to set up shop in the port area to tap the export potential of the Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle
IF A PLAN by terminal operator Penang Port Sdn Bhd (PPSB) to bring in fresh investments to Penang by way of a halal industrial park and petroleum tank farm is realised, multiple benefits can expect to be accrued by the state.
Apart from the potential of creating new jobs and opening up new investment avenues, the role of Malaysia’s oldest port – Penang Port – has the potential to see the return of its once-glorious trading days.
The history of the port can be traced to a vibrant hive of activities, until its status as a free port was revoked in 1969.
Since then, Penang Port had remained under the maritime radar and lost out to competition from other ports.
The fact that the port had to adhere to corporatisation policies for a while, has also not helped the situation.
Penang Port is managed and operated by PPSB, a corporate entity set up under the government’s privatisation policy.
One of the port’s uniqueness is its ferry service, which links George Town on the island to Butterworth across the channel, with PPSB operating a fleet of ferries.
PPSB chairman Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya revealed recently that potential investors have approached PPSB to set up shop in the port area to tap the export potential of the Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle.
Plans are also in place to house a free commmercial and industrial zone within the port area to facilitate easier movement of goods.
The authorities are said to be looking at reclaiming some 400ha of land south of the Butterworth port to house the proposed activities.
While the tank farm is expected to bring in RM1 billion in investments, Dr Hilmi said the proposed halal hub can rake in an estimated RM500 million.
He also said that other investors – like those engaged in liquid crystal display production – have expressed an interest to site their manufacturing operations at the port area so they can ship out their goods seamlessly.
By thinking out of the box and unlocking the potential found at the port and its surrounding areas, nailing the right investors and mapping out the right strategies and re-engineering its current operations, the port can serve as the catalyst in boosting the state’s economy.
Apart from Penang, other beneficiaries of the port’s proposed expansion can include the states of Perlis, Kedah and Perak, which together with Penang come under the Northern Corridor Economic Region (NCER).
The NCER blueprint, which was unveiled three years ago, identified Penang as the “Gateway to the Northern Corridor” and the role identified for the state was that of a major logistics and transportation hub.
Under the logistics services sector of the blueprint, projects were mapped on developing the economic corridor to be a major processing centre and entreport port for the area.
For this purpose, the Penang Port was designated as the leading port in northern Malaysia.
With positive indication received from the federal government for the port’s RM350 million request to carry out capital dredging works under the 10th Malaysia Plan, the proposed expansion of the port is now poised to shift from its role as a feeder port to one of a mother port.
Apart from catering to its hinterland, the proposed activities of the port will also be able to see increased economic activity not only within the Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle, but also with ports on the Indian sub-continent.