Muara-Labuan Roro ferry service commences!

The first vehicle from Brunei drives out of the MV Shuttle Hope at the Labuan Ferry Terminal yesterday. Picture: Courtesy of PKL Jaya

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

THE possibility for Bruneians to drive in Labuan has finally become a reality as the Muara-Labuan-Muara ferry service was finally given the green light by authorities yesterday.

Chin Mook Seng, managing director of PKL Jaya, yesterday delightedly informed the media of the successful launch of the new service, with more than 40 passengers on board its Roro (Roll-on Roll-off) vessel MV Shuttle Hope during the first day of operation.

The vessel made its first voyage from the Serasa ferry terminal to Labuan at 9am carrying seven vehicles and 30 passengers, with some of them, according to Chin, coming from as far as Miri, Sarawak. The returning trip to Brunei at 1.30pm saw 14 passengers on board, with half of them citizens of the island state.

A one-way ferry ticket to Labuan is $30 per vehicle, including the driver, plus $10 for each additional passenger and $5 for children.

To celebrate the introduction of the new service, the company is offering a 50 per cent promotion for its passengers throughout this week. "We hope to see an increase of passengers for the next few days, and we expect a much higher traffic during the coming weekend," Chin told The Brunei Times.

He said that the response from Brunei have been very encouraging since the announcement of the service back in August.

"There has been a lot of interest and we received several calls from members of the public enquiring about the service. We are also currently trying to raise more awareness over at Labuan to encourage them to visit Brunei in the comfort of their cars through this service," he added. For the moment, only domestic vehicles are allowed for the trip as the vessel has not been authorised by the transport authorities from Labuan to allow large commercial vehicles to be transported between the two ports.

"There are still some approvals still pending, but we are working on that to allow commercial vehicles as part of our commitment in helping boost tourism and trade relations between the two countries. For now we welcome passengers who want to visit each respective countries as their day trip or holiday with their personal cars," said Chin.

The new destination service was based on a tender issued by the Marine Department, in which the company participated in May this year. The tender was finally awarded to the company in August.

Chin said that the service will provide Bruneians and Malaysians an alternative way of travel between Brunei and Labuan as well as to boost tourism.

The company conducted a series of trial runs to Labuan following the official announcement. The service was initially slated for a September launch, as several government-to-government meetings and further discussions on the progress of the car ferry terminals in Serasa and Labuan needed to be carried out first.

Due to delays, the launch of the service was eventually pushed to October.

The journey from Muara to Labuan takes 90 minutes per trip and the ferry operates a total of four trips daily: a morning trip from Muara to Labuan at 8.30am, a return from Labuan to Muara at 11am, followed by an afternoon trip to Labuan again at 1.30pm and back to Muara at 4pm. For the time being, however, the service will only conduct morning trips until business starts picking up.

Chin said the introduction of the Muara-Labuan ferry service will hopefully fill that gap during the off-peak season in which the spot was previously filled by the Muara-Menumbok service, the company's inaugural ferry service destination earlier this year.

"We still have passengers taking their cars to Menumbok to go to Kota Kinabalu, but it's very seasonal. As a result, we reduced the frequency of the Muara-Menumbok service and replace that with the Muara-Labuan service," he said. MV Shuttle Hope has the capacity to carry 200 passengers and 10 crew as well as 45 cars at a full speed of 15 knots.The Brunei Times