GEORGE TOWN, June 3 — The Penang state government said Putrajaya should allow international cruises to enter the country as soon as possible.

Penang state exco Yeoh Soon Hin (DAP - Paya Terubong) said the federal government’s decision not to reopen its seas to international cruises will hurt the country’s tourism industry.

“We hope the Immigration Department will allow international cruises to enter our waters as this could help revive the tourism industry that was deeply impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said when replying to an additional question by backbencher Gooi Hsiao-Leung (PKR - Bukit Tengah).

Gooi had asked when international cruises will be allowed to enter the country as it was reported that the country is yet to allow ships to call on Malaysian ports despite the reopening of its borders on April 1.

Yeoh, who is also state tourism and creative economy committee chairman, said international tourists have been allowed into the country since April 1, but only by air or overland travel.

“We hope the authorities will allow tourists to enter via cruises as this is another large potential for the tourism industry that we are missing out,” he said.

He said the tourism industry is one of the main economic sectors in Penang and the state is taking various steps to revive the industry that had taken a hit during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“One of it is the expansion of the Swettenham Pier Cruise Terminal (SPCT) that started in 2020 and is implemented in four phases, 1A, 1B, 2 and 3,” he said when replying to an oral question by Gooi on the status of the expansion project of the SPCT.

Yeoh said Phase 1A, estimated to cost RM95million, was completed in July 2021.

Works under phase 1A include expanding the dock by 220 metre towards north of the terminal, construction of new breasting and mooring dolphin that are 50 metres and 68 metres in length respectively and construction of two bridges for the breasting and mooring dolphin.

“Phase 1B is estimated to cost RM4.6 million and it will focus on the development of preliminary upland and installation of gangway or boarding bridges,” he said.

Works on Phase 1B is expected to start in 2023 and is expected to complete within 12 months.

He said Phases 2 and 3, estimated to cost about RM55 million, will include building a new home port terminal and upgrading works on the existing terminal.

Works under Phases 2 and 3 will begin in 2024 and are also expected to take 12 months to complete.

He confirmed that there was no delay in the project and that it was according to the schedule of the SPCT Expansion Plan.