Labuan ferry operators to use RORO ferries

KUALA LUMPUR – Two newly-appointed ferry operators for Labuan-Menumbok-Labuan have been told to use the roll-on roll-off (RORO) type ferries and not landing craft, if they want to service the route, said Transport Minister Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha.
He said the delay in the operations to service the sector was not caused by the ministry but because approval was not given for the ferries operators had planned to use to service the route.

“The operators wanted to use the landing craft instead of the RORO ferry. Due to the safety issue, the marine department has not been able to approve the request. This is because, for ferry service, especially those carrying vehicles, the requirement is the RORO type,” he told Bernama here on Monday.

RORO ships are vessels designed to carry wheeled cargo such as automobiles,trucks, semi-trailer trucks, trailers or railroad cars that are driven on andoff the ship on their own wheels. RORO vessels have built-in ramps which allow the cargo to be efficiently”rolled on” and “rolled off” the vessel when in port and are generally reserved for larger ocean-going vessels.

Kong was commenting on the calls by the Sabah government to immediately resolve the issue that had caused a delay in the operations of the two-newly appointed ferry operators for the Labuan-Menumbok-Labuan route. Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan was recently quoted as saying that the delay in operations, despite an approval issued in January, had caused confusion among passengers in Labuan and Sabah.

“There have been no more problems on the Sabah government’s side, but the Ministry of Transport has yet to come up with any solution, which has caused a delay in the operations,” Pairin had said. Kong however stressed that the ministry had no intention to delay theservice, provided the operators used the approved vessel.

“This was proven when the Sabah government decided to grant these two operators the landing right to operate the route, we in the ministry allowed it. If the two operators use the RORO type, we can immediately approve it. However, the operators have appealed,” he said.

Labuan-based Mainland Link (LML) Sdn Bhd and Sabah-based Juta Bonus Sdn Bhd were granted approval by the Sabah government after numerous complaints about Labuan Ferry Corporation, which has been accused of monopolizing the ferry service for over a decade. Landing rights are under the control of the state government, but the licence to operate ferry services comes under the auspices of the federal government.

The Sabah government broke Labuan Ferry Corporation’s monopolistic hold on the ferry service between the island and the mainland after it decided to open the route to two other companies in an effort to improve the quality and reliability of the service.

Passengers relying on the ferry service to commute to and from Labuan daily have to endure unreliable services and have been complaining of sub-standard facilities on the ferry and the terminals in Labuan and Menumbok. The incumbent operator, angered by the prospect of having to share the market with two other competitors, has claimed that the lack of facilities and amenities at the terminals were the main causes of the problems.