Ferry monopoly leaves hundreds stranded in Labuan
Disgruntled holidaymakers and celebrants told FMT that they were forced to stay back in Labuan after even private speedboats refused to ferry passengers across to Menumbuk in Kuala Penyu on mainland Sabah because they would return with an empty boat.
One reader, said he had queued for a long time at the ticketing counter manned by the Labuan Development Authority (LDA) on the morning of February 2 and was shocked, on reaching the counter, to be told that the daily afternoon ferry to Kota Kinabalu at 1.30 pm was full. The only available ticket was for the next day.
Another victim of circumstance was also shocked to get the same news about her ferry.
She was told the ferry leaves Labuan twice daily at 8am and 1.30pm, including during the Chinese New Year, but they were full.
She, her husband and four kids were offered no apology at the LDA counter.
“If there is not enough ferry, they should buy more ferries or get better ferries that would be able to ply more frequent trips between Labuan and Kota Kinabalu,” she grumbled.
Normally it took the old ferries three hours to reach Kota Kinabalu from Labuan and vice versa.
Last year there were moves to issue another company with license to operate more ferries between the island and Kota Kinabalu or Menumbok.
But that proposal was quickly drowned by claims and counter-claims that unstable volumes of passengers for the routes would only kill the existing operators and the newcomer.
It’s been the same argument, at all previous times when there were a bid to break LDA monopoly.
While there is some truth to such claims, many observers opined that the least the ferry operators could do was to add more trips to the route during peak seasons and not to leave consumers without any good alternatives.
The speed boats that ply the 25 minute ride between Labuan and Menumbuk have their own set of problems.
They usually have full boat of 12 passengers exiting from Labuan but none on the return trip, hence generally its a one way trip as it doesn’t make fuel-sense.
On the second day of Chinese New Year these boats were also almost non existent.
In addition those who somehow managed to reach Menumbuk were stuck as the last bus to Kota Kinabalu leaves at 3.30pm and was as full, leaving travellers again stranded and victims of the ‘kereta sapu’ business.
These “kereta sapu” drivers charged exhorbitant fares to reach whatever destinations.
And celebrants who had earlier parked their cars at Menumbuk had the additional headcahe of high parking fees. Private parking costs anything between RM5 to RM20 a night for a small vehicle.
But this is a small matter when you consider that Menumbuk, which is turning out to be a ‘major’ docking spot, has no hotel or hostel facilities.
It is already a Visit Malaysia Year 2014 nightmare for Sabah-Labuan.