GEORGE TOWN, Aug 17 — The Transport Ministry is looking into expanding the new ferry service to add several more routes around Penang island such as Bayan Baru and Straits Quay.

Transport Minister Anthony Loke said they are looking into the feasibility of using the new ferries as “water taxies” to stop at other jetties such as private jetties on various spots around the island.

“These are privately owned jetties, so we have to look into this and whether there is a demand for it,” he told reporters after the official launch of the new ferry service at the Pangkalan Raja Tun Uda (PRTU) today.

He said the ministry will allow the operator, Penang Port Sdn Bhd (PPSB), the flexibility to create new routes and add other landing points around the state.

“The focus will be for landing points only within Penang,” he said.

The ferry service currently only plies between PRTU on the island and Pangkalan Sultan Abdul Halim in Butterworth.

The fleet of four new ferries was officially launched by the Penang Governor Yang Dipertua Negeri Pulau Pinang, Tun Ahmad Fuzi Abdul Razak this morning.

Loke said the ministry is not rigid about the use of the new ferries for other routes as long as passenger safety is guaranteed.

“There are many other possibilities that the ferry can be used for, other than only taking passengers from the island to the mainland and vice versa,” he said.

He said the ministry will also allow PPSB to charter out one of the ferries for tourism purposes such as for private events, tour groups and corporate functions.

“We have asked the Penang Port Commission not to be too rigid and to allow the ferry to be rented out as a tourism product,” he said.

He said there is sufficient capacity for the ferries to ply the George Town — Butterworth route so one of it can be used as a tourism product.

Currently, he said the ferries run on a 15-minute interval and takes between 10 to 12 minutes to cross the channel.

He said in the first six days since the new ferries started its service on August 7, about 50,000 passengers have taken it.

Currently, the ferry service is still free for the first month but after this, a fare will be imposed.

Loke said PPC will decide on the fare and that it will be affordable.

“Passengers will only be charged once for a return trip, they will not be charged twice,” he said.

He asked the state government to also consider including the ferry fare in the Mutiara Pass subsidy next year.

As for the old iconic ferries, that is currently no longer in use, Loke said they are open to proposals from any private companies to convert the ferries into tourism products.

“We are open to all proposals, they can discuss this with PPC to see if it can be used for other tourism activities,” he said.