SINGAPORE, May 11 — It is a route less taken by Singaporeans travelling to Malaysia’s southernmost state.
And there are only two places where passenger boats go from the Republic to Johor and back: From Changi Ferry Terminal and Changi Point Ferry Terminal.
Following the recent bilateral talks between the Singaporean and Malaysian governments, though, more ferry services will be allowed between Changi Ferry Terminal and Tanjung Belungkor, which is a 15-minute drive from the tourist spot of Desaru.
And this little-known mode of travel between the two states may just pick up if supply creates demand.
When TODAY visited Changi Ferry Terminal on Friday, there were hardly any passengers.
Julie Lopez, who manages the ticket counter, said there are about five to seven passengers per weekday trip on average, while the weekends usually see about 20 passengers per trip.
There are two scheduled trips from the terminal to Tanjung Belungkor and back on weekdays, and four return trips on weekends, on ferries operated by Limbongan Maju, a Malaysian company.
Most of the passengers are tourists, who sometimes book in groups, or Singapore residents who work on the cruise ships that dock at Tanjung Belungkor, said Lopez.
One passenger who was there on Friday, and heading for a fishing competition in Desaru, did not even know there was a ferry service to Tanjung Belungkor from Changi Ferry Terminal until that very afternoon.
“We usually take the bumboat from Changi Point (Ferry Terminal) to Pengerang, and from there, make our way to Desaru,” said Zul Yusof, 48, who was accompanied by his wife Manisah Ibrahim, 47.
“But by the time we got to Changi Point today, we had missed the last boat. The guy at the ticket counter told us to come here and catch the 6pm ferry.”
Manisah, an electrical technician, said she and her husband travel to Desaru up to thrice a year for short holidays.
“Alternatively, we could drive from Singapore via the Woodlands Checkpoint, but we don’t want to get caught in the traffic jam on the Causeway.
“Taking the ferry is more relaxing, but not many people know that there are ferry services from Singapore to Johor,” she added.
Nor do many know about the bumboats over at Changi Point Ferry Terminal that pick up passengers headed for the small coastal town of Pengerang in south-eastern Johor, about an hour’s drive from Desaru.
When TODAY met Kenneth Choo, 28, who was heading back to his hometown, he had been waiting for over an hour to board a bumboat, as the boat captains usually wait until there are 11 or 12 passengers before leaving. There were five other passengers at the time.
Choo, an administrative clerk at a furniture company in Singapore, said he did not mind the wait, however, as he rarely went home — about two or three times a year.
“Sometimes, I drive from Johor Baru, where my sister lives. But to drive from JB to Pengerang takes about two hours; it’s more relaxing to take a ferry,” he said.
The bumboat trips are priced at S$11 (RM30) per person, and those who bring bicycles on board pay a S$2 surcharge.
Meanwhile, a return ferry ticket to Tanjung Belungkor costs S$38, and a one-way ticket costs S$25, while those who bring along surfboards or bicycles will be charged an extra S$10. Each ferry seats up to 90 passengers.
Plans seem to be under way for more ferry services beyond the current routes, though, such as from Singapore to Puteri Harbour in Nusajaya, one of the key flagship zones of Johor’s Iskandar Malaysia project and a mere 20-minute drive from Johor Baru.
A source in UEunrise — the master developer for Nusajaya — told TODAY that talks are ongoing with Singapore’s maritime authorities to fine-tune details of the service.
“We’re hoping to kick-start the service by the next half of this year. The ferry service will most likely depart from HarbourFront in Singapore,” the source said. — TODAY