FERRY SERVICE: Tioman return trip fraught with danger
PULAU Tioman has often been touted as a great tourist attraction, on a par with overseas holiday destinations. Advertisements peddling the appeal and lure of the island are aplenty. But for my family and I, what was supposed to be an enjoyable Merdeka weekend getaway on the island became frustrating and traumatic on our way back home.
We were to return home on Sunday, Sept 2. The ferry pick-up was at 10.30am and it was expected to be jam-packed with people.
We decided to go to the jetty early to ensure that we got seats on the ferry.
What we discovered was that there was no line and no queue system for boarding the ferry.
We waited for the ferry from 10am but it arrived only at 1pm.
The crowd started pushing to get onboard. I boarded the ferry first with my two children, aged 4 and 7, while my husband went to load the bags. I was struggling to hold on to one child and carrying the other. People were pushing me from the back, left and right.
I tried to find four seats but was unsuccessful. I found two seats and left my 7-year-old there while I went to look for another two, but only found one empty seat.
Suddenly, I realised that the ferry was moving and saw my husband still at the jetty with our bags. The boatmen would not take any more bags on board. My husband called to tell me they had stopped people getting on the ferry as it was overloaded.
I ran to those in charge and frantically negotiated with them to go back for him.
One of them said that my husband had to wait for the next ferry, which might come in about another hour. After I raised my voice, another person agreed to radio the skipper to stop the ferry.
I was also worried about my two girls who were sitting in different sections.
I told them there was no way I was going to travel on the ferry for three hours with two kids without my husband. I said: "Let him get on or let me off."
The ferry finally went back for my husband.
Unfortunately, more than half of nearly 80 to 100 people there were not allowed onboard and were left behind. We overheard the boatman saying that this was the last ferry out for now.
What was the fate of those left waiting at the jetty? I shudder to think that I could have been one of those left behind.
We had paid for four seats but only got three. There were people standing, sitting on steps, squatting near the toilets as well as bags everywhere on the floor, steps and compartments.
I wonder how many regulations were broken that day.
This was not my first time to Tioman and each time I board the ferry from Mersing, I pray for a smooth and safe trip to the island and back.
On almost every trip, the ferry is overloaded and is a disaster waiting to happen. Remember the Tioman ferry tragedy in 2007 where seven people died?
Tourism Ministry officials should experience first-hand waiting for ferries.
They should also try using the public toilets there: only two toilets to cater to 120 to 150 people. Imagine the stench.
What a great impression this will make on foreign tourists.
The ferry company is willing to put so many lives at risk just to make a few extra ringgit.
I urge the authorities to ensure safety for all.