GEORGE TOWN: Former transport minister Loke Siew Fook has explained why a RM90 million allocation he announced two years ago for upgrades to the Penang ferry services had not gone through.
Speaking to FMT, Loke said the allocation was to be funded by Prasarana, the federal government’s public transport operator.
However, the funding was “not continued” as Penang Port Sdn Bhd, a private company, had an obligation to run the ferry service as well, under the concession it was granted to run port operations,
Loke’s explanation came after the Penang Port Commission, which oversees port operations, said today that the allocation had gone “missing” and could have been used to save the ferry service.
Engine failures on the last two vessels in operation caused the ferry service to be suspended for three days from today. It is believed to be the first shutdown of ferry services in the state’s history.
PPC chairman Tan Teik Cheng said that if the RM90 million allocation had come through, the ferry service could have been upgraded adequately.
Loke said Penang Port Sdn Bhd (PPSB) had agreed to pay RM10 million for three consecutive years to Rapid Ferry, a Prasarana subsidiary, to run the ferry services.
He said the undertaking was approved by the previous Barisan Nasional government which had authorised the transfer of ferry services to Rapid Ferry even though the RM10 million payment fell short of requirements.
Past records showed that about RM22 million a year was needed to run the ferry, Loke said.
He said although the ferry service was run at a loss, PPSB was obliged to run the service as part of the company’s contract when Penang port was privatised many years back.
Loke said the Pakatan Haraan government had negotiated with PPSB to take back the ferry services and invest in new catamarans. “This process was almost done and that is why Prasarana did not continue with the funding (of RM90 million) for Rapid Ferry as the investment should be borne by PPSB.”