Over the last few days, we have heard that RM300m in federal funding is needed to dredge Penang port. But what is causing this siltation and should public funds be used to once again deepen the port?
The North Channel is now only 11 metres deep and needs to be deepened to 15 metres for larger ships.
The Penang Port managing director said the port stands to lose millions if the project does not start soon.
We need to ask why the siltation is occurring. Isn’t it true that the siltation rate around Penang is now many times more than what was projected two decades earlier?
We have to identify the root causes of siltation instead of forever almost literally pumping money into the bottom of the sea. And that’s public money, our money.
What are the possible or likely causes?
– Dredging and indiscriminate dumping around the Northern Channel
– Increasing sedimentation discharge from the Muda River due to change in land use patterns
– Land reclamation
– Work on the port expansion and second Penang bridge.
Penang port should release the results of their studies to identify the sources of the siltation.
I was told that last year a study on the sedimentation/siltation along Gurney Drive found that land reclamation in neighbouring coastal areas may have been responsible. Indeed, we must establish what the impact of land reclamation is on the whole of Penang.
More specifically, we have to establish what is causing the siltation in Penang port. Whoever is responsible for causing the siltation should be asked to bear a share of the dredging cost, instead of forever using public funds.
So far, RM1.1bn has been spent on upgrading and developing Penang port. In addition, PPC currently spends RM30m in dredging every year to maintain the depth at 9m to 11m while RM350mil in capital dredging is needed every 10 years, according to the Penang Port Commission chairperson.
If Penang port is now taken over by private firms – which I hope won’t happen – then those private firms must absorb these costs. And if land reclamation is found to be another source of siltation, then those involved in land reclamation should be asked to contribute to the dredging.
Otherwise it will be another case of “privatisation of profits and socialisation of costs/losses” (i.e. passing the costs to the public while handing the profits to private hands).