ONCE renowned the world over as a famed port in the Straits of Malacca, Malacca Port was not only a bustling port, but also the envy of many seafaring nations.
The port, located near the mouth of Sungai Melaka, thrived in the 15th century under the Malacca Sultanate.
It was considered the Venice of the East and this was clearly penned by Portuguese traveller Tome Pires, who stated that “whoever had control of Malacca” had a stranglehold on Europe.
The Malacca Port served as a crucial trade link between the East and West, and was a cultural melting pot for Malay, Chinese, Indian, Arab, Portuguese, Dutch and English communities in the state.
The port’s strategic importance was also one of the main reasons why the state was conquered by the Portuguese in 1511, followed by the Dutch in 1641 before finally resting in the hands of the British in 1824 until Independence on Aug 31, 1957.
But with the passage of time, the location has lost its esteem. Mud and silt had slowed the river flow and caused it to be less navigable.
After Merdeka, land and air transport saw rapid development, leaving Malacca Port doomed to oblivion.
Things changed in 2001 when the Sungai Melaka conservation and beautification project successfully turned the lifeless river into a thriving waterway. This placed the Historical City on the world tourist map.
The state government, with help from the Federal Government, embarked on a RM200 million restoration and beautification project, starting from the river mouth to the Hang Tuah bridge. The project paid off handsomely, and now, the river has not only been revived, but has been turned into a lucrative tourism attraction.
Under the 10th Malaysia Plan, Malacca was allocated RM285 million for flood mitigation, rehabilitation and beautification, including cleaning and upgrading the river system from Sungai Melaka estuary right up to Malim.
These included deepening the river, constructing concrete banks and walkways along the river, landscaping, building water taxi stations, bridges and beautifying the river.
However, the various achievements still failed to bring back the heydays of Malacca Port as the busiest port it once was.
But things will change soon as Malacca is all set to regain its dominance in the seafaring scene.
Early this year, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Idris Haron had announced that the Malacca government was considering building a high-capacity international port in a move to encourage high performance economic activities in the state.
The state, in welcoming the plan by the Federal Government to build a world-class port in the Historical City, had identified two potential sites — Tanjung Bruas in Melaka Tengah and Kuala Linggi in Alor Gajah. Idris said the state fully supported the initiative by the Federal Government.
“We are ready to assist the Federal Government in developing the port here, and in terms of the site of the proposed port, we have identified the two locations.”
Idris said he had directed the state Economic Planning Unit to do a thorough study on the locations.
“The study covers checking the harbour areas for the project, deepening the river to 15m in order to provide access to large merchant ships to dock, as well as the cost and time required to develop the port.
“In addition, we also do not exclude the possibility of reclaiming up to 40.5 hectares of the sea at selected locations where the project is to be carried out.”
Idris said the port was suitable to be developed in the state because of its strategic location in the middle of the Straits of Malacca.
“If it is agreed, I believe this project will create more than 3,000 jobs and could be turned into an advanced port in the country.”
The Tanjung Bruas and Kuala Linggi ports currently handle about 900 ships annually compared with the Pasir Gudang port and Port Klang, which handle about 8,000 and 15,000 ships, respectively.
The new ports in Malacca are not expected to compete directly with other high-performance ports in the country, but rather, they would offer value-added services to the international business sector.