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Upskilling fishermen and helping locals reel in alternative job offers

Upskilling fishermen and helping locals reel in alternative job offers

Published by The Star • 12/7/2023

Fishermen practising chartwork before the final exam of the seafarer’s course.


JOB opportunities and benefits from the Social Impact Management Plan (SIMP) will be seen once the Penang South Island (PSI) reclamation work begins.


There will be some 600 marine and land-based jobs when reclamation is carried out over 18 months, with priority given to fishermen and local residents.


The positions range from licensed and professional roles to skilled and technical categories.


Fishermen will also be given assistance in the form of bigger boats and engines, complete with accessories.


Once the reclamation begins, there will be a 250m-wide navigation channel that enables them to go to sea regardless of the tide.


Recently, 11 fishermen took a seafarer course to learn about chartwork, rules and regulations, meteorology, basic training, general ship knowledge and general engineering.


Permatang Tepi Laut fisherman Zazali Sirun, 55, said he appreciated the new knowledge.

Some of the newly upskilled workers being taught how to sew a sand mattress.


“I have been a fisherman for over 20 years without knowing anything about maritime law.


“Thanks to the opportunity from the Penang government through PSI, I have learned about counting nautical miles to plan my journey at sea, how to travel more safely and the regulations to abide by when at sea,” he said.


Eng Phaik Khoon, 49, from Gertak Sanggul, also said the seafarer course was useful to fishermen.


“We learnt about maritime regulations and different types of buoys at sea,” he said.


Eng said although he had been a fisherman since he was 13, he didn’t know many things about navigating safely at sea before he attended the course.

Eng says he learned a lot from the seafarer course about navigating safely at sea.


“Previously, I did not know what the buoys or their blinking lights meant.


“Now I know that different buoys warn us of different dangers like shallow waters or objects underwater.


“We were also taught how to read a compass and plan our journey,” he added.


Eng and Zazali were part of the second batch of fishermen from the PSI area to attend the “Mate Domestic less than 500 GT Open” course.


Last year, the first batch of nine fishermen received their seafarer certificates.


The fishermen can go on to take an oral exam at the Marine Department to obtain their Certificate of Competence (COC), which will enable them to work in national waters as seafarers.


With the COC, they can work on pontoons and ships of less than 500 gross tonnage.


They can offer boat transport services for construction workers and tourists to earn additional or alternative income.


Seafarer training is part of the SIMP initiative where fishermen who are looking at upskilling will be selected in batches yearly to attend the course towards obtaining the COC.


New jobs


The PSI project has created new job opportunities, with general workers, boat pilots, maintenance technicians, drivers and other personnel sought for site work.


Balik Pulau resident Abdul Hadi Abdul Shukor, 37, went to interview for a boat pilot position at Pusat Perkhidmatan Setempat Nelayan (PPSN) in Permatang Damar Laut.

Abdul Hadi, who is a certified seafarer, is seeking stable employment.


The seasoned boat pilot, who is also a certified seafarer, became self-employed not long after the Covid-19 pandemic hit.


He used to pilot tourist boats to Pulau Jerejak until the service was terminated following the pandemic.


“I have always worked at sea. I started as a fisherman and I went on to be a boat pilot after I earned my seafarer certificate in 2007.


“Although I can earn a living by taking people out sightseeing and for fishing excursions, the income is not stable.


“We cannot go out to sea when the weather is bad.


“My wife has also encouraged me to get a more stable job. So, I thought of trying my luck here,” said the father of three young children.


Homestay business operator Koh Chu Leng, 44, also came to interview for a driver’s position.


He was left without income for two years during the Covid-19 outbreak.


“I would rather take on a salaried job with EPF (Employee Provident Fund), Socso and other benefits,” said the father of one, whose wife operates a hawker stall.


Penang Infrastructure Corporation (PIC) chief executive officer Datuk Seri Farizan Darus said the project would foster growth for small businesses and amplify the multiplier effect within the entire southern community.


PIC is Penang government’s special purpose vehicle to implement the PSI project.


“When the project starts, we will have more to offer to the people, especially those who live near the project site.


“Penang government is committed to ensure that the project will benefit residents and create a ripple effect that uplifts the entire community,” said Farizan.


To date, 1,100 locals including fishermen have registered their interest for the available roles.


Those interested can call PPSN at 1800-88-6393, email [email protected] or visit its offices at Permatang Damar Laut, Sungai Batu and Gertak Sanggul for details.

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