IT was a pleasant surprise for the people of Perak when Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abd Kadir recently said that a new port was being planned in Hilir Perak.
Although the exact location was not revealed, it is learnt that the new facility will be built in Bagan Datoh, which is strategically located between Port Klang and Lumut Port.
A clear indication was made by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi when he announced Bagan Datoh’s elevation into a sub-district with development projects in the pipeline.
The Bagan Datoh member of parliament is determined to jump-start the development in his constituency, despite its remote location and lack of industrial activities.
And now, it is more achievable with the establishment of the new port and construction of the West Coast Expressway or WCE, which is expected to be completed in 2019.
Costing RM5 billion, the 233km-long WCE will link Banting and Changkat Jering, traversing towns and industrial areas near the coastal belt of Selangor and Perak. It will help connect Port Klang, Lumut Port and Penang Port with the proposed port in Bagan Datoh, creating the most comprehensive port network along the Straits of Malacca.
The state government has already started negotiations with a few players, including global ones, on the construction of the new port that will complement Lumut Port. To date, the response has been good and an official announcement may be made soon.
Some may question the need for another port since Perak already has Lumut Port, which celebrated its 20th anniversary recently. Unknown to many, Lumut Port does not handle shipping containers as it is a dedicated bulk cargo terminal.
Lumut Maritime Terminal Sdn Bhd (LMT) chief executive officer Mubarak Ali Gulam Rasul said unlike other ports, Lumut Port was designed to handle liquid and bulk cargo, such as petroleum, limestone, clay and coal. The port can also handle oil palm products and livestock.
Located in Kampung Acheh, Lumut Port was officially opened on July 24, 1995. In 2002, LMT was given the responsibility to operate and manage the Lekir Bulk Terminal (LBT), a deep-water seaport dedicated to handle coal for the Sultan Azlan Shah Power Station in Seri Manjung. With a natural depth of 20m, LBT is Southeast Asia’s largest dry bulk unloading facility and capable of berthing vessels in the Handymax, Panamaz and Capemax classes.
LMT also owns the 400ha Lumut Port Industrial Park, which provides space for warehousing or transshipment for foreign and local investors, such as Petronas and Sapura Kencana. Rapid development in the state has already pushed the port’s capacity to its maximum, forcing the operator to come up with an expansion plan.
According to Mubarak, the company aims to spend RM225 million to extend the wharf area to 1km, creating more berthing space for ships and barges. When completed in 2019, the port would be able to handle six million tonnes of cargo annually compared with 3.1 million tonnes now. A fixed conveyor belt system will be installed and it can help transport 1,200 tonnes of dry bulk per hour compared with 350 tonnes per hour if lorries are being used as is the present practice.
The progress shown by Lumut Port proves the importance of visionary leaders and their long-term plan to help accommodate the needs of the industry in the state and nation. With a bigger Lumut Port and the new port in Bagan Datoh, Perak can help Malaysia position itself as the most comprehensive entrepot and shipping hub along the Maritime Silk Road.
M. Hamzah Jamaludin is a UM science graduate who refuses to follow Einstein's path, and chooses journalism for a more colourful life. It's a crucial decision which helps to spare dozens of labs and research
facilities from accidental explosions