A new RM12 million tourism and small medium enterprises (SME) hub known as the Mersing Harbour Centre (MHC) was launched today by the Sultan of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar. Pix by MOHD AZREN JAMALUDIN

MERSING: Sultan of Johor Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar today launched the Mersing Harbour Centre (MHC), a RM12 million tourism and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) hub.

The ruler was in town on the second day of the Kembara Mahkota Johor.

Construction for the project under the East Coast Economic Region Development Council (ECERDC) began in January last year, and will begin operations this month.

It will house 50 SMEs offering a variety of products and services, including seafood products, art and handicraft, local delicacies and island-hopping tour services.

ECERDC chief executive officer Datuk Seri Jebasingam Issace John said MHC would become a major tourist attraction.

“It is one of the high-impact projects implemented by the Federal Government through ECERDC and the Johor government to make Mersing a premier tourist destination and main gateway to the Sultan Iskandar Marine Park and its group of islands.”

Jebasingam said RM109.1 billion of investments had been channelled into the four states under the East Coast Economic Region (ECER), namely Pahang, Kelantan, Terengganu and Johor.

“Mersing alone has attracted RM1.61 billion worth of private sector investments creating over 1,700 job opportunities.”

He said out of the 50 SME operators at MHC, 70 per cent were Bumiputera.

These SME operators received financial assistance and went through entrepreneurial training under the Empower ECER Human Capital Development programme.

Mersing District Council president Jamil Hasni Abdullah said MHC would boost entrepreneurs’ livelihood and expand their businesses.

“Every year, about 200,000 visitors come to Mersing through the Mersing Jetty. The centre will boost the economy in Mersing.”

He said residents on five islands around the Sultan Iskandar Marine Park had also benefited from a rejuvenation and development programme under ECERDC.

“Jetties on these islands have been refurbished, and roads and mosques were built.”

A participant of the Empower ECER programme, Nurul Hidayatul Islamin Johar, 24, said her beauty products business picked up since she acquired new skills under the programme.

“I used to earn RM1,000 a month. After following the courses for a year, I begin earning RM5,000 a month.

“I urge people in Mersing to make use of the free courses to boost their livelihood.”

Earlier, Sultan Ibrahim launched the country’s biggest artificial reef structure when he went diving at Pulau Mensirip here.

Malaysia Book of Records operation director Christopher Wong presented a certificate for the biggest artificial reef structure to Johor Baru Central Municipal Council president Adib Azhari Daud.

The artificial reef, measuring 5.5m in height, 10.6m in length and 9.3m in width, is modelled after the Sultan Ibrahim Building and has the Iskandar Puteri City Council logo on top of it.

The event marks the pre-launch of the Johor Baru Central Municipal Council’s name change to Iskandar Puteri City Council.