If you were upset by the news that Penang’s iconic ferry service will cease operations, don’t be, because the government has stepped in to ensure the service is continued, according to a report by The Star.

“The government will impose a condition on Penang Port to carry on the iconic and heritage ferry service,” said finance minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz. He goes on the say that this condition would be imposed in relation to the RM15 million out of the RM30 million approved for Penang Port (PPSB) to take over the ferry service from Prasarana.

“I can confirm that the allocation will be made in two payments. The first payment of RM15 million will be made in 2021 and has been included in the Supply Bill 2021,” Tengku Zafrul explained.

On Tuesday (December 15), it was revealed that all remaining vessels in the current Rapid Ferry fleet will be retired from service at the start of next year. While public transportation across the Penang Strait will continue with the adoption of water bus crafts, these will only carry passengers and not four-wheeled vehicles.

The new water buses will operate between the Pangkalan Sultan Abdul Halim ferry terminal in Butterworth and Pangkalan Raja Tun Uda. Penang Port Commission chairman Datuk Tan Teik Cheng previously said the old ferries will be stopped entirely by 2022, although one of the existing ferries will be retained for use in transporting bicycles and motorcycles.

The first cross-strait ferry service between Penang Island and the mainland began in 1894, making it the oldest ferry service in the country. Difficulties in keeping the ageing fleet running and service disruptions prompted the initial decision to retire the service, with more focus placed on passengers over vehicles – about 1.3 million passengers and 240,000 four-wheel vehicles use the ferry service annually.