New ferry services between Labuan and Menumbok in Sabah promises safer rides for commuters.
Duta Muhibah Tiga, a 110-seater passenger launch, finally broke the stranglehold by the Labuan Ferry Corporation (LFC) on transport between this offshore financial centre and Menumbok on the Sabah mainland over the weekend.
The vessel made its maiden voyage on Sunday, ferrying passengers for RM10 for adults and RM5 for senior citizens and children.
It new rates slices a third of the cost charged by operators of a motley collection of speedboats who charge RM15 per person for the half-hour journey.
The launch, owned by Isro Group Bhd, will make two crossings a day in the morning and afternoon either way.
Isro Shipping Bhd general manager Capt Kamarulzaman Tamyis said the launch is one of four vessels owned by the company which would be used on a rotation basis after they are issued domestic shipping licenses by the Transport Ministry.
Isro Shipping is one of the three new companies granted landing rights at Menumbok by the state government and is the first to commence service.
The other two are Labuan Mainland Link Sdn Bhd and Syarikat Juta Bonus.
Both groups have also been granted the right to transport vehicles and passengers between the island and the mainland have yet to commence operations.
Long-time monopoly holder Labuan Ferry Corporation, whose contract was renewed for another 10 years, is currently the sole operator transporting vehicles to and from the island.
Passengers who took the first trip on the Isro-owned ferry said it was more comfortable and they felt safer compared to using the 12-seater speedboats that ply the route.
These flimsy vessels that skimmed the straits had up to now been the only mode of transport for many apart from the creaky ferry service to and from the island.
Visitors to the island had complained how they had to wait for up to an hour at times to make the crossing as boat owners would only depart when they had a full boatload of passengers.