Malaysia: Bright Future for Penang Port

According to Bintulu Port official website, the Seaport Terminal Sdn Bhd wants to position Penang Port as a regional port to tap opportunities as far out as India and for that it plans to grow its capacity and invest nearly RM1bil in capital expenditure over the next five years.

Over 30 years, the plan is to spend a whopping RM4.71bil in capex and with that kind of investments planned, the country’s oldest port would be turned into one of the most efficient, profitable and competitive ports in the northern region.

Speaking to the media at a briefing yesterday, Seaport Terminal director Datuk Mohd Sidik Shaik Osman said Seaport Terminal had plans to “sweat the assets” to grow the business so that Penang Port would be profitable. Besides, there is also a plan to restructure Penang Port’s debts of RM1.2bil.

“We will deepen the navigation channel according to the needs of the port,’‘ he added.

He said the funding for capex would be sourced from shareholders, internally generated funds and also debt markets but he declined to elaborate on the quantum.

“Both PTP and Johor Port have played important roles in catalysing growth. We are confident of doing the same in Penang,” he said.

Seaport Terminal was invited in 2011, along with several local and international port companies, to submit bids for the privatisation of Penang Port Sdn Bhd.

It is the successful bidder for the privatisation, but of late there has been mixed views as to how Penang Port should be positioned and some are of the view that the port would be better off being a transhipment hub.

However, Seaport Terminal has its own views of what’s best for the port given its track record in managing ports for the past 17 years. It also manages the Port of Tanjung Pelepas (PTP) and Johor Port.

Both PTP and Johor Port have played an important role in catalysing the economic growth of Johor as well as the country. We are confident of doing the same in Penang,” Mohd Sidik said.

To be a transhipment hub, the location of the port needs to be geographically strategic, it needs to be highly productive and have good infrastructure.

Not that Penang Port does not meet all the criteria but PTP and Singapore are better suited to be transhipment hubs given their locations of being at the confluence of East-West and North-South of the trading routes.

“It is nothing wrong to be a feeder port but there is no intention to make Penang Port a tongkang or sampan port.’ Let’s pitch ourselves correctly.

“Penang Port is the only port in the (northern) region with modern facilities. It has the competitive advantage and our view is that it should serve the greater hinterland,” he said.

As for now, the cargo at Penang Port comes from the northern area of Penang and southern parts of Thailand. It is located at the north of the straits and ideal to be a regional port serving the northern peninsula, south Thailand, north Sumatra and Myanmar.

Though Seaport Terminal had received a letter from the Federal Government informing it that it is the winner, Mohd Sidik could not say when the takeover would be as the takeover involves a process.

Along with the planned expansion of Penang Port, he said there were also plans to upgrade the ferry service to make them more efficient.

[mappress]

Dredging Today Staff, August 2, 2012

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