I refer to Rosli Khan’s letter dated May 24 on suggestions for the transport minister. This was eye opening for many of us who are not looking at the overall transport sector. However, I wish to ask some questions specifically on ports.
Under Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s first tenure as prime minister, Malaysia’s ports flourished. We had Westport under its founder G Ganalingam, which took port branding to new levels and also the whole of Port Klang to the world’s top 20. Today, the PKFZ scandal is no longer talked about because the land is all taken up. This only happened because the ports are doing well.
Then you have the successful Tanjung Pelepas Port, which made amazing accomplishments with the world’s largest line as its partner. It immediately became the largest port in the country. But what is good about this area is that, some say, it launched Iskandar. The Iskandar zone is now a game changer in Malaysia.
Of course, there are other ports. But it is the above two which stayed super efficient, ahead of the government-backed Singapore PSA.
There are challenges, though, and this is what I want to highlight.
- Expansion to Pelepas is limited because of Forest City. The Forest City land is freehold, and reclamation is just in front of Pelepas land. Was Pelepas sleeping, or was the government at the time ignoring this?
- Westport has an expansion plan and Klang is doing well. Why kill the growth with a white elephant port in Melaka Gateway?
- Port Klang is growing, and there is no doubt that Pulau Carey is needed, but is this the right time or should it wait?
- Melaka Gateway started with a big bang in 2014, but since then, no real clients have come in.
- In 2017, Melaka Gateway said it had a huge port plan. If this is really with the investors, then where are they, Chinese or otherwise?
Let us not forget about Hambantota in Sri Lanka which brought down a government. Melaka is close by road to Port Klang. Its hinterland is small but well served by Pelepas and Klang. What cargo does Melaka hope to have? This project which started with three islands now has four, and keeps changing its story to suit the pressures of the day.
- If the deal for the cruise passenger terminal was signed, why is there no construction at all? Was a cruise deal signed? If so, let us see it.
We, the people of Melaka, ask for our waters and heritage to be retained. We want islands 2, 3 and 4 to be cancelled. We also do not want a dirty industrial port or any other kind of port right next to our city line.
Today, many ports are moving away from cities. Why Melaka?
We ask for a review of:
- State-offered concessions
- Port concessions
- Land titles – how were these issued when the land is not ready and are they also freehold?
Shipper Observer is an FMT reader.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.