Water taxis and the need to get it right from the start


By CY Ming

The Malacca state government’s plan to introduce water taxis to reduce traffic congestion in the city ought to be lauded.

It was just over a year ago that Chief Minister Idris Haron launched a smartphone application called Destinasi Melaka, developed by Telekom Malaysia and the Malacca Tourism Promotion Division.

The phone app, accessible from anywhere around the globe, provides interesting and relevant information about Malacca in an organised manner, allowing visitors to make bookings in advance. Upon arrival, the phone app may be used as a navigation tool without the need for foldable maps. Sharing one’s Malacca experience can also be done with just a few clicks of the button.

Many other destinations are still printing costly brochures that only gather dust in the end. The few that are picked up are swiftly discarded as sharing pictures and videos of a tourist spot using smartphones is preferred.

Malacca is so popular with tourists that it is jammed pack on weekends but visitors are not deterred, as the delights it has to offer is worth the trouble. But the state government is not resting on its laurels and is making use of the Malacca River, which flows through the middle of the city, for public transport.

It plans to introduce water taxis in the middle of this year upon completion of the RM130 million rehabilitation and beautification project of the Malacca River. These passenger boats will ply between the Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) complex at the estuary to the Melaka Sentral bus terminal, with five new jetties in between.

There is no doubt cruising along the Malacca River will be a great experience. However whizzing past at high-speeds would be a bad idea. Even worse would be introducing amphibious coaches, which the Terengganu government ordered from Malta in 2014.

These buses that can sail on water are priced at €600,000 Euros or about RM2.8 million each, have not been delivered since 2015 because of technical issues, although 50% was paid up front.

While state governments should build infrastructures such as jetties, they should not get involved with water transport.

It is best to appoint a concessionaire to run such services in a sustainable manner without bleeding the coffers of the state. Safety should be paramount and there is no need to decorate the boats with a Malacca roof.

It is nothing more than a “syiok sendiri” exercise when the Terengganu state government opted for a fancy roof for buses operated by them, as they looked hideous to foreign tourists.

As such, water taxis to be introduced in Malacca should be the safest available, allowing thousands of commuters and tourists to use it without incident, with the pilots, ushers and security personnel trained to handle emergencies, if any.

CY Ming is an FMT reader.

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