GEORGE TOWN, Dec 18 — The Penang state government will wait for Penang Port Sdn Bhd (PPSB) to reveal its plans for the state’s ferries, after the finance minister said yesterday the iconic vessels will be maintained.

Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said the finance minister’s announcement was reportedly a “shock” to PPSB, which meant the organisation will have to announce its plans for the ferries.

“Whether the interim plan for the ferry service will remain as announced, we have to wait for PPSB to announce,” he said in a press conference at his office today.

The ferry operations, which were previously under Prasarana Bhd, were transferred back to PPSB early this year but the process was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Yesterday in Parliament, Finance Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz said Penang Port was given the condition to continue the Penang ferry services that is iconic and a heritage draw.

Zafrul said the previous government had approved a RM30 million allocation for PPSB to take over the ferry services and confirmed that the sum will be paid in two annual instalments.

Chow reiterated his stand that the state wanted the heritage ferries to continue to ply the channel to bring commuters to and fro the island and mainland.

Earlier this week, PPSB and Penang Port Commission (PPC) announced that the heritage ferries will eventually give way to new water buses and vehicle transporters in 2022.

In the interim period, catamarans will transport pedestrians from the Swettenham Pier Cruise Terminal to Butterworth from January 1 onwards while one existing ferry will continue to operate to transport bicycles and motorcycles.

All other vehicular ferries will be discontinued.

There were plans to spend RM64 million to purchase new water buses and vehicle transporters and upgrade the ferry terminals on both the island and mainland.

The new service to transport commuters to and fro the island and mainland is expected to start in July 2022.