The back and forth argument on ceasing aged ferries plying the straits between Butterworth and Penang island is turning into a more amicable approach with the Penang Port Commission deciding to invite ambitious individuals or entrepreneurs to renovate the existing ferries and turn then into tourism attraction.
Its chairman, Datuk Tan Teik Cheng said to maintain the historical value and iconic elements of the state, two existing ferries would be renovated as floating restaurants, museums or for tourist cruises.
“It is to mark the contribution of these ferries to Penang’s cultural identity and heritage. Therefore, PPC will make an RFP offer to the public who are interested in the initiatives,” he said in a statement.
The ferries has been courting interest from both the public and parliament when it was announced that they will cease operation come January 1, many felt nostalgic of the iconic ships which some believe has run its course. Maintaining the units has been astronomical, parts are hard to come by and cost of keeping them afloat outweighed compared purchasing new ones.
With the RFP, the nostalgic value of the ferries can be retained while the newer taxis can operate commuting Malaysians and tourist.
Plans were afoot by the Ministry of Transport in the modernisation phase of the ferry service which would kick off with the introduction of three water buses (for foot passengers), followed by two carriers for two-wheeled motor vehicles only (such as motorcycles and bicycles) which would operate from 2022.
Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz has allocated RM30 million for the modernisation of the ferry service which would be channelled through two payments, in 2021 and 2022.
As a temporary measure, the ministry said that Penang Port Sdn Bhd (PPSB) would provide two speedboats to transport passengers as well as obtain a ferry service owned by Prasarana to transport two-wheeled vehicles in an effort to assist in the transition process during the period.