SARAWAK needs RM360 million to dredge Sarawak River to enable Kuching Port Authority to accommodate larger cruise ships, taking advantage of the expected upsurge in cruise tourism in Malaysia and the Asia Pacific region.
Presently, only small and medium cruise ships (100-500 passenger capacity) can berth at Kuching Port Authority.
During his winding-up speech yesterday, Minister of Tourism Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said cruise tourism was one of the fastest growing tourism segments in US, Europe and now in the Asia-Pacific Region which accounts for 18 per cent of the global cruise market.
Kuching has been identified as one of ports with potential for cruise tourism development by the Malaysia Cruise Council, which also identified cruise tourism as one of the Tourism National Key Economic Areas (NKEA) – Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) by Pemandu.
“Since 2007, Sarawak has been actively receiving a steady arrival of cruise ships into our ports of Kuching and Bintulu.
“Kuching Port Authority, especially, has the most number of cruise ship arrivals due to its close proximity to tourist attractions which are suitable for onshore excursions as Sarawak is perceived as exotic and safe,” the minister said, adding that this year, Sarawak was scheduled to receive 15 cruise ships bringing in approximately 13,000 passengers and injecting RM2.3 Million into the local economy.
“At the Malaysia Cruise Industry Workshop held at Penang in May this year, cruise operators have expressed their interest in making Kuching as part of their cruise itinerary. Their decision to operate was, however, hindered by the limitation of our river draught to cater for their mega cruise ships and non-availability of dedicated cruise facilities,” said the minister, noting that Penang, Selangor, Sabah and Brunei were developing and upgrading their port facilities to cater for mega cruise ships.
In tandem with this development, Abg Johari said the state was looking into the feasibility of developing its own deep sea ports and dedicated cruise facilities in compliance with the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code and that the proposed study on the Lundu-Sematan Coastal Development Area Master Plan was expected to address the matter.
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