ELIGIBLE fishermen involved in the Penang South Islands (PSI) project will be receiving modern boats which are safer and higher in capacity in the second half of this year, under the project’s Social Impact Management Plan (SIMP).
Penang Infrastructure Corporation (PIC), in a media statement today, said the preparations are underway to build the first batch of 20 new boats, which have been designed by marine consultant Aaira Marine Consultancy and Services.
Penang Infrastructure Corporation chief executive officer Datuk Seri Farizan Darus said the provision of new boats and more powerful engines to the fishermen demonstrated the state government’s commitment to empowering fishermen; contrary to allegations by detractors that the fishermen’s livelihoods would be adversely affected.
“Fishing will continue during and after PSI’s reclamation. The fishermen themselves know this, which was why some had asked the state government for new boats when the SIMP scheme was being worked out.
“We have now identified a Penang-based boat maker for the job. We are targeting to have the first few boats built and start delivering them in phases to the fishermen beginning the end of next month (July),” he said.
Farizan said the state government would also build new jetties equipped with facilities for Tier 1 fishermen units, and a 250m-wide navigation channel that allowed 24-hour access to the sea.
However, the jetties can only be built years from now, as the PSI islands must be reclaimed first to provide the new jetties protection from strong waves.
As a temporary measure for Permatang Tepi Laut fishermen who berth their boats along the banks of Sungai Bayan Lepas, the state government would provide temporary berthing and storage facilities,” Farizan said.
“Engagements with the fishermen involved are still ongoing to seek their views on the design of the facilities. We aim to start work in the third quarter of this year and complete construction in 12 months.
“I believe this is also a first for fishermen to receive so many benefits under a reclamation project’s mitigation plan,” he said.
Aaira Marine Consultancy and Services technical expert Mohd Amirrudin Mohd Zainudin, who specialises in naval architecture and boat building, said the boats would be made of fibreglass to be more durable.
“Wood was the common material for boatmaking in the past. But wood decays after a few years of use.
“Fibreglass boats are more durable and require less maintenance. If we use fibreglass on the whole boat, we can build a lighter and more durable vessel.
“When boats are lighter, they travel faster, and consume less fuel,” he said, while also recommending the use of the lighter PU composite honeycomb for boatmaking.
Mohd Amirrudin said the new boats – which will measure 27ft-long each – also marked a new beginning in efforts to modernise coastal fishermen, which was in line with the Fisheries Department’s (DoF) nationwide agenda.
“Beginning this year, all boats to be built must have general arrangement plans certified by DoF. So far, the design for the new boats for PSI area fishermen is the first to get DoF’s certification,” he said.
PSI’s SIMP, which was formulated by the Penang government to benefit and bring progress to the local fishing community, includes providing new boats and engines to registered boat owners (tekong) from the Permatang Tepi Laut, Sungai Batu, Teluk Kumbar, and Gertak Sanggul fishermen units in Tier 1.
PIC said that based on the Penang Fisheries Department records, 315 boat owners are eligible to receive the new boats along with higher-powered four-stroke engines under the SIMP.
Meanwhile, local boat maker Mohamad Naser Talib’s company Fibra Marine Manufacturing and Trading in Butterworth, Penang, has been shortlisted to build the first 20 boats. The formal appointment as the contractor is now pending.
Mohamad Naser said he and his workers, who have experience building fishing boats of 20 to 35ft in length, aimed at finishing the order in three months.
Mohamad Naser said the PSI project would give new opportunities to fishermen and bring them progress.
“This project can also be good for tourism. Fishermen have much to gain. They just need to open their minds and see the opportunities.
“If we just stay the same, we will not progress,” he said.
PIC said the new boats and the new engines – either Yamaha or Mercury, depending on the fishermen’s preferences – would undergo pre-delivery tests to check for defects and to make sure they could float well and cope with rough handling at sea. The boats will only be delivered to the fishermen after passing the final acceptance test.
The SIMP also offers fishermen financial aid in the form of ex-gratia, job and business opportunities, training opportunities, tuition programmes for their schooling children, and a homeownership scheme.
Fishermen from Batu Maung, Sri Jerjak, Telok Tempoyak, Pulau Betong and Kuala Sungai Burung (Tier 2) are also eligible to register and receive benefits under the SIMP.
DoF data puts the total number of registered fishermen involved in the PSI development at 952 from Tiers 1 and 2.