Malaysia mulls financing options to deepen Penang Port

Besides the private finance initiative model, the government may opt to use its own coffers for the project

pix_toprightTHE government is exploring the possibility of using a private finance initiative (PFI) model to deepen the north channel of Penang Port.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat said besides the PFI model, another alternative is for the government to use its own coffers for the project, which is estimated to cost RM1 billion.

He said a study is being carried out to determine the feasibility and suitability of both models.

“We will decide on the matter based on the outcome of the study. This is top on my priority list and I hope the engineering working proper will kick off before September this year,” he told reporters in Penang yesterday after launching the Penang MCA’s 60th party anniversary celebration.

The government had announced last November that it would resume work on the project, which had been shelved under the Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP) mid-term review.

Ong had said then that after studying the benefits in dredging Penang Port’s channel, his ministry felt that the project should proceed in order to enhance the port’s competitiveness.

“The Penang Port is currently a feeder port. We should not forget its glorious past and the importance of the port to the country, the state and its people,” he said, adding that what worried him was the depth of the current port, which is between 9m and 11m.

“We hope to deepen the depth to between 15m and 17m to enhance the port’s competitiveness,” he said, adding that an environmental impact assessment (EIA) report will also be carried out before the project proper.

Operator Penang Port Sdn Bhd is targeting to develop Penang Port into a premier port by 2012 if the deepening of the north channel proceeds.

The Penang Port expansion and upgrading are outlined in the Northern Corridor Economic Region (NCER) blueprint to promote it as the leading port in the Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle.

Meanwhile, Ong who was also asked on a proposal by Bukit Bendera MP Liew Chin Tong for the Penang state government to take over the ferry operations which were reported to have suffered RM20 million losses last year.

“Anyone can propose anything but it should not be just a mere statement. Show us the proposal and we will see whether its viable or not,” Ong said, adding that he had received numerous inputs on the matter by various parties including the state MCA and individuals.

He added that so long as the proposal was genuine and for the benefit of the people, he was willing to consider it.

By : Audrey Dermawan

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