Penang Port gets EPU nod to split up ops

By forming a new subsidiary to manage its ferry business, Penang Port can make strategic moves at turning around the unit, says its managing director

pix_toprightThe Economic Planning Unit (EPU) has given the much-awaited nod to terminal operator Penang Port Sdn Bhd (PPSB) to separate its loss-making ferry operations from its core port business, and make it a subsidiary of the company.

The move by the EPU, a body established under the Prime Minister’s Department, is part of a major restructuring plan aimed at facilitating the port operating unit’s listing on Bursa Malaysia.

PPSB managing director Datuk Ahmad Ibnihajar said the separation of the two businesses, which is likely to take place this year, will create distinct identities for PPSB’s ferry and port operations.

“This restructuring exercise is expected to be endorsed by PPSB’s board when it meets on October 9 and we are looking at positioning the ferry operations as a public transport provider like Rapid Penang and the light rail transit service,” he told a press conference in Penang yesterday.

PPSBPresent was PPSB’s newly-appointed chief operating officer Azlan Hamid.

Ahmad said by forming a new subsidiary to manage its ferry business, PPSB can make strategic moves at turning around this unit.

“One way to fill our fleet of eight ferries up and ensure that they run optimally is to team up with Rapid Penang.

“We plan to load their buses on our ferries – which currently operate at only 25 per cent capacity – and allow passengers to travel on a single ticket,” he added.

He said discussions on the fare structure for this proposed merging of services between PPSB and Rapid Penang will be held with Rapid Penang’s chief executive officer Azhar Ahmad soon.

The ferry service, which links Penang island to the mainland, has been a stumbling block to the port opera-ting company’s initial public offering.

Last year, ferry losses stood at RM24.6 million, a 71 per cent increase over RM14.4 million in 2007.

“The massive losses last year were due to fuel cost. We are looking at losses of RM14 million this year,” Ahmad said.

In July this year, Second Finance Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni Mohamad Hanadziah was reported as saying that state infrastructure company Syarikat Prasarana Negara Bhd had been given the mandate by the Finance Ministry to carry out a study on the viability of taking over the ferry service from PPSB.

The public ferry service was absorbed into PPSB as part of its corporatisation deal with the Penang Port Commission in January 1994. Some 6,500 passengers and 3,000 vehicles use the service daily. Passengers pay RM1.20 each, while the fare for a car is RM7.70.

Meanwhile, Ahmad said Penang Port’s container throughput for 2009 is expected to match the 2008 volume of 929,639 TEUs (20-foot equivalent units).

By Marina Emmanuel

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