Long-term plans for NBCT expansion pose alignment challenges for proposed undersea tunnel project


THE Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (DEIA) report for the proposed undersea tunnel project has not been carried out.


Penang Infrastructure, Transport and Digital Committee chairman Zairil Khir Johari said the state government was currently examining and deliberating on the implementation direction of this project until the master plan for the expansion of the North Butterworth Container Terminal (NBCT) by the Penang Port Commission (PPC) is finalised.


“The master plan is scheduled to be finalised next month (December 2023),” Zairil replied to Phee Syn Tze (PH – Sungai Puyu) at the Penang Legislative Assembly today.




Phee asked about the status of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report for the proposed undersea tunnel project, its social impact on the local population, and the mitigation measures during the construction activities.


Zairil said social impacts on the local population would be identified and thoroughly studied during the preparation of the DEIA under the Social Impact Assessment (SIA) report.


“However, an initial study on the social effects on the residents was conducted during the Feasibility Study (FS) stage, revealing that the majority of the population supports the undersea tunnel project.


“Additionally, the state executive council meeting (MMK) on March 31 this year approved the FS report for the project’s implementation,” he said.


He added that mitigation measures during project execution could only be determined after the preliminary detailed design is completed.


“The detailed design will be presented in the DEIA report, outlining all control measures to be approved within the DEIA approval.


“These control measures extend beyond residential areas, encompassing impacts on ecosystems, social aspects, and traffic throughout the project area,” Zairil said.


Responding to a supplementary question, also by Phee, Zairil explained that the expansion of the NBCT involved short, medium, and long-term plans.


“The long-term plan of the NBCT, which could extend up to the year 2050, includes wharf (dermaga) expansion. The plan to expand the wharf may clash with the alignment of the proposed undersea tunnel project.


“The short and medium-term plans of the NBCT are fine,” he said.


Zairil added that a discussion would be held after the master plan for the expansion of the NBCT by PPC is finalised in December.


“If the alignment of the proposed undersea tunnel project impedes the expansion of the NBCT, we are open to exploring alternative options.


“This could involve reconsidering the alignment of the undersea tunnel project or contemplating the construction of a bridge.


“Additionally, the concept of implementing water taxis to connect Penang Island and Seberang Perai is promising and aligns with the initiatives outlined in the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP).


“We shall take one step at a time,” he said.


On a related matter, Teh Lai Heng (PH – Komtar) questioned the state’s efforts to further educate those who failed to understand the progress of the proposed undersea tunnel project despite much explanation.




“I believe that the state assemblymen, including Opposition members in the August House, understand the development of the proposed undersea tunnel project. However, there are those Opposition out there who ‘refused’ to understand the matter despite much explanation given by the state government.


“They kept asking when the undersea tunnel project could be implemented and where is the undersea tunnel.


“What can the state do to make them understand and not harm the proposed project?” Teh questioned.


Zairil said that the challenge lies in the fact that, despite the state’s efforts to educate them, some individuals still struggle to comprehend.


“The Penang government constantly communicated, made announcements, explained, and answered questions by the media concerning the proposed undersea tunnel project.


“I have also explained the project several times during each State Legislative Assembly.


“We are not able to help those who feigned ignorance,” he added.



Story by Christopher Tan

Pix by Siti Nuratikah Rahmat