As Penang port rings in the new, traders at iconic George Town ferry terminal fear for their future in 2021

Opalyn Mok
·2-min read
Traders at the Pangkalan Raja Tun Uda ferry are worried about the future of their businesses as the iconic ferry service for foot passenger and car ends today, December 31, 2020. ― Picture by Steven Ooi KE
Traders at the Pangkalan Raja Tun Uda ferry are worried about the future of their businesses as the iconic ferry service for foot passenger and car ends today, December 31, 2020. ― Picture by Steven Ooi KE

GEORGE TOWN, Dec 31 ― Traders at the Pangkalan Raja Tun Uda ferry terminal in George Town are worried about the immediate future of their business as the iconic ferry service for foot passengers and cars at the terminal draws to an end today.

Most of the 16 traders at the terminal have been operating their stalls there for decades. Some are even second and third generation businesses, having inherited it from their parents and grandparents.

Lim Guan Eng speaks to reporters before board the ferry service for the last time at the Pengkalan Raja Tun Uda Terminal  December 31, 2020.  ― Picture  by Sayuti Zainudin
Lim Guan Eng speaks to reporters before board the ferry service for the last time at the Pengkalan Raja Tun Uda Terminal December 31, 2020. ― Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

Now that the terminal will be closed to foot passengers from January 1, 2021, the traders are worried that their business will suffer drastically.

One of them, Mohamed Salihu Abdul Rahman said his father used to have a cart selling snacks at the terminal more than 50 years ago.

“I have been selling books and snacks here for over 40 years,” the 60-year-old said.

He said the traders there have to pay between RM300 and RM800 in rental each month to Penang Port.

“Now that there will no longer be passengers using this terminal, how are we to get any business? How can we afford to pay rent? They should at least exempt us from paying rental for the next 18 months until they reopen this terminal for foot passengers,” he said.

Former Minister of Finance Lim Guan Eng along with VIPs holding the banner ‘Selamatkan Feri Kita’ before boarding the ferry service for the last time here at Pengkalan Raja Tun Uda Ferry Terminal, December 31, 2020. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
Former Minister of Finance Lim Guan Eng along with VIPs holding the banner ‘Selamatkan Feri Kita’ before boarding the ferry service for the last time here at Pengkalan Raja Tun Uda Ferry Terminal, December 31, 2020. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

Mohamed Salihu said he represented the 16 traders at the terminal who wrote to Penang Port Sdn Bhd (PPSB) on December 23 asking to be exempted from paying rent due to their current economic straits.

“We have not heard anything from them at all so we are worried, this is our livelihood,” he said.

Mohamed Salihu also reached out to Pangkalan Kota assemblyman Daniel Gooi for help.

When contacted, Gooi said he has spoken to PPSB on behalf of the traders. According to the lawmaker, PPSB will be making an offer to relocate the traders to Swettenham Pier Cruise Terminal just up the road soon.

Traders at the Pangkalan Raja Tun Uda ferry terminal is facing uncertainty as they may have to close down, December 31, 2020. ― Picture by Steven Ooi KE
Traders at the Pangkalan Raja Tun Uda ferry terminal is facing uncertainty as they may have to close down, December 31, 2020. ― Picture by Steven Ooi KE

A PPSB spokesman neither confirmed nor denied the offer when contacted, saying only that the port will be contacting the traders soon to discuss the next course of action.

The stalls, lining both sides of the entrance to the terminal, cater mostly to foot passengers who had to walk through the passageway to take the ferries.

The old ferries for foot passengers and cars will be retired permanently from tomorrow onwards while only one ferry, Pulau Angsa, will continue to ply the Penang channel to bring motorcycles and bicycles across.

All foot passengers will be diverted to take the fast boats from the Swettenham Pier Cruise Terminal while the Raja Tun Uda Terminal on the island and Sultan Abdul Halim Terminal on the mainland will be upgraded to accommodate new water buses and vehicle transporters in July 2022.

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