Water taxis expected to begin operations in July


KUCHING: Kuching’s water taxis are expected to begin operations this July.Minister of Housing and Urban Development Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg yesterday said the water taxis will ply between Satok (new township) and the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK).

For a start, he said, three boats will be used to carry five, 10 and 15 passengers respectively.

The number of boats, he said, would eventually be increased under the private sector.

“The water taxi in Sungai Sarawak is among our approaches to provide public transportation as an alternative to the land transport from Satok to BCCK to reduce traffic congestion.

“The water taxis will encourage people to use the river as a mode of transportation, besides making it a tourism product,” Johari told a press conference yesterday.

He said a committee, headed by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development permanent secretary Affandi Keli and comprising members of the Marine Department, has been set up to look into the matter seriously.

Johari had earlier attended a briefing with the Sarawak Rivers Board (SRB) and other related agencies.

He said between five and eight pontoons with a marina design, would be built along the route between  Satok and BCCK, which is a distance of about 10 nautical miles. He added that the new Satok township, to be constructed in the next three months, is expected to become a business center and the water taxis would make it more convenient for people to travel between the area and BCCK. The fare structure would be announced soon.

Johari assured that the boats to be used as water taxis would prioritise safety aspects for passengers and be user-friendly.

For this, he said, a boat design competition would be held to ensure that boats used fulfilled such aspects, adding that between RM10,000 and RM15,000 has been set aside for the purpose.

He also said that river transportation had been successful in Melaka and Singapore and was worth emulating in view of the Sarawak River.

“We have great potential in making Kuching a more vibrant city with the existence of water taxis because we have a very established waterway,” he said. The water taxis, he said, would not affect the less than 100 perahu tambang operators, and added that these operators were also encouraged to participate in the water taxi business.

Meanwhile, Johari said he would announce a new local public transport system after a meeting with the Road Transport Department (JPJ).

He hinted that the public transport system would be very up-to-date and was not even being used in Peninsular Malaysia.

Among those at the press conference were Assistant Ministers of Housing and Urban Development Datuk Dr Soon Choon Teck and Abdul Wahab Aziz.