12 Mar Safe berth for fishermen
Published by The Star • 12/03/2022
New facilities for Permatang Tepi Laut fishermen ahead of Penang island reclamation
FISHERMEN like Mohd Noor Ramli from Kampung Binjai, Penang, who berth their boats by the banks of Sungai Bayan Lepas, have been working without proper docking and storage facilities for years.
Without a proper jetty, the fishermen there secure their boats to whatever they can find – including poles stuck in the water by the riverbank. Some have built their own wooden platforms to ease access to their boats. Most have built their own shed to store their fishing equipment.
“All these years, our biggest problem is lack of proper facilities. Although our boats are safe from waves, as we berth away from the open sea, we always have to worry about our sheds.
“We built them without proper plans, so they can easily be damaged and collapse in bad weather,” said Mohd Noor, 48.
This situation is not unique to fishermen in Permatang Tepi Laut, as those in Sungai Batu, Teluk Kumbar and Gertak Sanggul also face this issue.
Penang Infrastructure Corporation (PIC) chief executive officer Datuk Seri Farizan Darus said that part of the Penang South Reclamation’s (PSR) Social Impact Management Plan (SIMP) is aimed at addressing problems faced by the local fishermen.
The SIMP will provide a navigation channel that enables fishermen to go out to sea around the clock without having to wait for high tide, and new jetties equipped with proper facilities like storage space and other amenities for fishermen in the aforementioned four locations.
The new jetties, which will be properly designed and built with approval from the relevant authorities, will replace the existing ones that were constructed without permit. However, the jetties can only be built after PSR’s three islands are reclaimed, which will be years from now.
“The islands must first take shape so that they can provide protection for the existing coast, where the fishermen berth their boats. Without the islands, the jetties will still be exposed to huge waves and risk damage during storms.
“We have seen how the storm last month damaged fishermen’s boats. So, we hope the future islands and jetties will address this problem,” he explained to Permatang Tepi Laut fishermen during a recent briefing on the jetty plans in Bayan Lepas.
Farizan said the state government is planning to provide more immediate relief for the Permatang Tepi Laut fishermen by building temporary berthing and storage space along Sungai Bayan Lepas.
In the plans, the Kampung Binjai side of the river will get about 30 berthing and storage facilities, and toilet.
The opposite side at Permatang Tepi Laut will get 40 berthing and storage facilities, a mechanic’s workshop, boat maintenance facilities, and an ice-making facility. Both sides will also get stalls, proper access roads and new river banks.
The construction will take about one year to complete, Farizan said, adding that the state government plans to start work in May after Hari Raya Aidilfitri.
“Before we start work, we need to hear the fishermen’s views on this plan, and get their feedback on the designs for the berthing and storage facilities.
“If all goes well, we expect to be able to appoint a consultant for the job over the next few weeks, start the design work, and conduct surveys and site investigation this month and the next,” he said.
Mohd Noor, who has been fishing for 20 years, said the plan is good news to the fishermen.
“If we can get proper facilities for our boats and equipment, we can finally sleep well,” he said when met at the river.
Batu Maung assemblyman Datuk Abdul Halim Hussain and Bayan Lepas assemblyman Azrul Mahathir Aziz, whose neighbouring constituencies are divided by Sungai Bayan Lepas, welcome the proposed temporary facilities.
Abdul Halim said he supports efforts to better equip and empower fishermen, so they could work more comfortably and earn better income.
“When we develop, we must ensure it will also improve the fishing community’s quality of life for the long term.
“We should also work towards modernising the profession by employing modern fishing techniques, setting up a fishermen cooperative, and providing fishermen with larger boats and training opportunities,” he said, adding that the younger generation would then start to view fishing more positively.
Azrul said fishermen at Sungai Bayan Lepas should attend briefings by PIC to hear the proposal and give their input as soon as possible to allow work to proceed as planned.
“This is a good proposal that benefits the fishermen even before PSR is completed. The fishermen and representatives from the state and relevant agencies need to share feedback so that issues can be ironed out. We don’t want to have problems when work starts, so it is best for all parties to meet and discuss,” he said.
PIC, Pusat Perkhidmatan Setempat Nelayan (PPSN) and project delivery partner SRS Consortium are holding a series of briefings for the fishermen on the temporary facilities proposal.
Fishermen at these briefings are also briefed on the proposed Permatang Tepi Laut multipurpose jetty site that will be built at the river mouth after Island A takes shape.
The new permanent jetty for the Permatang Tepi Laut fishermen unit will be the first to be built, following the PSR project’s reclamation phase which will start with Island A. It will have a proper fishermen jetty, fish landing area, boat maintenance facilities, office spaces, meeting rooms and other relevant facilities.
The jetty will also boast a passenger jetty, restaurants, seafood market, shops, a promenade, children’s playground, bicycle track and walkway to fishing platforms for anglers.
The jetty will be a stone’s throw away from the proposed Permatang Damar Laut LRT station, which is one stop from the Penang Airport LRT station.
“The jetty’s agrotourism potential is huge. If done right, we can expect the new jetty to make Permatang Tepi Laut a very lively place. There will be a lot of jobs and business opportunities for the local fishermen in the future,” Farizan said.