Sunday, July 29, 2012

‘Privatisation vital for long-term survival of Penang Port’

PETALING JAYA: Penang Port Sdn Bhd must be privatised to boost competitiveness, efficiency and create new business opportunities.

Former Penang Port Commission chairman Datuk Seri Zahrain Mohamed Hashim said privatisation can help ensure the port’s long-term survival.

“The success of a port is due to a lot of factors, which include workers’ morale. They have to be motivated so that they don’t feel that they are government servants, giving their best in a competitive world which can translate positively to the port operators’ bottom line,” Zahrain told Business Times recently.

“Privatisation makes good business sense as it will enable Penang Port to prosper and exporters enjoy an efficient port, which translates into cost-saving for the port.”

Zahrain was commenting on the long overdue privatisation of the Penang Port mooted since 1993-94, due to political wranglings by the then Finance Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

The port, which is owned by the Finance Minsitry, is now mired  with controversies as the opposition, led by Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, is opposing the federal government’s move to award the privatisation to Seaport Terminal Sdn Bhd.

Lim had said the port should be run by Penangites.

Zahrain said the port operations and its related businesses should not be given to state governments or politicians as they have no knowledge on how to run a port.

“Lim should stop talking about running ports. Playing politics will bring the wrong perception. Port operations cannot be given to any Tom, Dick or Harry,” said Zahrain who is also Bayan Baru Member of Parliament.

Zahrain said the Ministry of Finance (MOF) must privatise Penang Port quickly as it has now fallen to number five in the country from number two in terms of throughput behind Port Klang, Northport, Westport and Port of Tanjung Pelepas.

Penang Port’s earnings per share is now at 45 sen compared to what its current value should be at RM5 per share, he added.

“As a business concern, the MOF has not succeeded in creating value for Penang Port,” said Zahrain.

He said Penang Port will also play its role as a feeder port and not a hub port as it does not have the volume to rival PTP, Port Klang and Singapore port.

A feeder port receives cargo from the mainland (or hinterland) such as from Thailand and Peninsular Malaysia and is then shipped to hub ports such as PTP and Port Klang.

Zahrain said the opposition should also look up to Seaport Terminal, which has developed PTP from scratch.

He was responsible for corporatising Penang Port in 1993. He was also Malaysian Maritime Affairs chairman between 1995 and 1999.

Business Times - Sat 28 July 2012

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