Residents in Marudi are fuming over the appalling ferry services provided by a private contractor. Since 2005, Marudi residents and those who regularly travel on land to Marudi have had to settle for poor ferry services and pay exorbitant rates for a mere 2 minute crossing over two rivers.
There is 1 ferry each that ply between Sungai Baram (Baram River) and Sungai Bakong (Bakong River). Those travelling to and from Marudi and Miri will need to use the ferry services twice and pay twice.
The minimum amount charged per crossing is RM3 for motorcycles. Cars and trucks will be charged RM15 while a 3-tonne lorry will be charged RM100. Lorries above 3 tonnes will be charged about RM150 or more. Hence, a typical ride for a return trip between Marudi and Miri would be RM60.00 in a car.
Despite such exorbitant charges, the service is far from satisfactory. In the first place, both ferries are old and it is believed that the one currently operating in Baram was previously used in Kuala Belait in Brunei before the bridge was built. At most, each ferry can carry about 7 regular sized vehicles. Sometimes the ferries can only carry 1 large vehicle across. Further, there are no safety features on the ferries in the event there is an accident. People cross at their own risk daily.
During festivals, the waiting period to cross both rivers can go up to 2 hours or more. Residents have complained that these ferries experience frequent breakdowns including the non-working of the hydraulic system that operates the landing ramp. As a result, the ramps do not land evenly on the ground when the ferries dock. This in fact is dangerous for vehicles to get out because the ramps are wet and slippery.
Residents of Marudi, who travel by land, are at the mercy of the ferry operator and have no choice but to pay the arbitrary charges.
SAM also questions whether the ferry operator has been issued a license by the authorities to operate both these ferries. If so, the ferries would have to be regularly serviced, maintained and installed with proper safety features. These are sorely lacking.
SAM urgently calls on the Ministry of Transport and the Sarawak State Government to revamp this ferry service and allow for a fresh tender to be opened up. The ferries must be run professionally and efficiently taking into account the lives of the people who use these ferries on a daily basis. These ferries must be equipped with safety features and must be regulated by the State. The people should also not be made to incur such high charges for what is supposed to be a mode of public transport. The onus and duty is on the State to ensure that public monies are utilised properly to benefit the people. The ferry service should be a benefit to the people not a burden. Alternatively, the Government should speed up the construction of the bridge at Sg Bakong and further construct a bridge across Sg Baram to ease the travel and eliminate the exorbitant ferry rides.
S.M. Mohamed Idris