Business as usual at Penang Port

AWAITING CLEARER PICTURE: Management goes ahead with expansion plans and moves to improve net profit

WHILE the cloud of uncertainty continues to hover over the fate of Penang Port Sdn Bhd (PPSB), it’s business as usual for the management of the country’s oldest port.

“We are just as anxious as you are about the new owner and their plans for Penang Port,” said PPSB’s managing director Datuk Ahmad Ibnihajar last Friday before a cocktail reception for the port’s users. Also present was PPSB’s chairman Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya.

Confirming a Business Times report that PPSB is yet to be officially notified that Seaport Terminal (Johor) Sdn Bhd, owned by tycoon Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar al-Bukhary, had won the bid to privatise the 226-year-old port, he said:

“We have read that the government is still negotiating with the new owner, but we remain in the dark as to what is exactly happening.

“In the meantime, it’s business as usual for us, as we go about with our plans to expand the port and better the net profit of RM15 milllion which we recorded last year,” he said.

While projecting a modest growth rate of between two per cent and three per cent for this year, Ahmad cautioned that if the global economy worsens, growth could remain flat.

The Transport Ministry, in a written reply at the Dewan Rakyat this month, had confirmed that Seaport Terminal had won the bid to privatise PPSB. The ministry said that one of the conditions to be included in the privatisation agreement was that the successful company must bear the cost of dredging Penang Port.

It was reported that the RM351 million dred-ging scheme for the northern part of the Penang channel has yet to take off although the amount had been allocated under the 10th Malaysia Plan. The project to deepen the channel from the current 11.5m to 14.5m is vital to bring large transshipments into the port.

“We have a five-year plan to improve the port’s performance,” Ahmad said, “and the new machines (seven units of Super Post-Panamax cranes), which are currently under-utilised because of the much needed capital dredging, is yet to be carried out.

“We are not worried about who the port’s new owner will be as all we want is to get on with our job of realising the best that Penang Port can offer and for the good of the state, we should all get on with business and the sooner the capital dredging can be carried out, the better.”

Ahmad also said that it was unfair to blame his staff on the port’s performance and compare it with other ports. “It has been a challenge for PPSB to manage the expectation of port users who have been wanting to see the port grow for a long time.”

Penang Port was incorporated in 1993 as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Minister of Finance Inc. The management and operations of the port were corporatised in 1994 under the government’s privatisation programme, and Penang Port took over all the facilities and services from the Penang Port Commission (the regulatory body for the port) which licensed Penang Port to operate, manage and maintain all port facilities and services. The 30-year concession period ends in 2023.

By: Business Times

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