Big plans afoot for Penang Port

18 Nov 2019 / 22:21 H.

GEORGE TOWN: There are ambitious plans to reposition the port of Penang as a regional hub and three former schoolmates have been given the task to steer the ship in its intended course.

Penang Port Sdn Bhd (PPSB) CEO Sashedharan Vasudevan will take the lead and he will have Penang Port Commission chairman Jeffrey Chew Gim Eam and its general manager Monaliza Suhaimi behind him.

The trio studied together at St Xavier’s Institution, Penang’s second oldest school but while they only knew each other in passing then, they said their new camaraderie now would help them work together to take the oldest port in Malaysia to the next level.

In its 233-year history, the Penang port has seen its share of ups and downs.

It was the centre of trade in the 18th and 19th centuries but its importance waned with the emergence of other facilities in the region, particularly in Singapore and Port Klang.

Now, with Asia’s rise as an economic and trading powerhouse, Sashedharan is confident that Penang is ready for the competition again, this time from Thailand and Indonesia, too.

“Thailand and Indonesia still needs time to get started, and the cost will be high,” he told theSun recently.

But Penang, with the advantage of a long legacy in the business, already has a new action plan in place, and Sashedharan is confident that with the help from Chew and Monaliza, it would take off.

The plan involves changing the now flat landscape along Swettenham Pier and Butterworth wharf areas into a vibrant stage.

Penang Port will no longer be seen as just a feeder port but more for its cruise services with more liners berthing every week and a goods distribution network to boost intra-trade within the Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand Growth Triangle.

Last year, PPSB recorded an operating profit of RM197 million on a revenue of RM490 million. It is confident that it will do better this year, thanks to Penang’s steady economic growth despite the US-China trade war.

If the Swettenham Cruise Terminal achieves its target of 1.5 million arrivals this year, it would mean a steady growth of 20% per annum over five years.

PPSB will also open a free commercial zone to make the port a distribution and repackaging hub for the region, and the addition of a duty free zone at Swettenham Pier is expected to boost tourism.

Also on the cards is a berthing site for yachts and luxury vessels at nearby Tanjung Marina.

To get these proposals off the ground, PPSB is pumping in another RM186 million in capital spending.

Chew wants to make the port an exciting landmark, as previously envisioned by Penang’s founders, and the task falls on his as well as Sashedharan and Monaliza’s shoulders.

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