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Johor rail project may be put on back burner

2 SEPTEMBER 2008 - The Gemas-Johor railway project may not kick off in the Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP) as the focus is on people-centric developments as announced in the 2009 Budget.

Transport Minister Datuk Ong Tee Keat said the project is still in the "infant stage" of planning, but did not elaborate.

He was speaking to Business Times during an official visit to Westports in Port Klang yesterday.

Business Times had reported that tenders for the RM8 billion project to lay new rail tracks from Gemas to Johor Baru may be called after the Mid-Term Review of the 9MP, that is, by the end of this year.

At a press conference later, Ong told reporters that it is a necessity for port operators to enhance the branding of their respective ports and also Malaysia to spearhead operation growth.

He said there should be improvement in cargo volume and efficiency of government apparatus at the ports from customs clearance to functioning of port authorities.

Port Klang's container volume is expected to hit eight million TEUs (20-foot equivalent units) this year, compared with seven million in 2007 and three million in 2000.

By 2012 it expects to handle 12 million TEUs, driven by promotional works carried out by the Port Klang Authority (PKA) and Westports Malaysia Sdn Bhd to woo more shipping lines including feeder lines.

"We need to synergise our efforts with the various authorities. There is ample room for further improvement. Industry players need to be creative and innovative," he said.

Meanwhile, Westports executive director Ruben Emir Gnanalingam told Business Times that it may call for a tender to build the RM60 million multi-purpose berth closer to the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) by the end of this year or early next year.

Ruben said the matter is still in discussions with PKA, the manager and marketer of PKFZ, to build the 300-metre berth to increase productivity and occupancy rate at the free zone area.

He said it would support existing tenants at PKFZ like Norwegian oil and gas industry equipment maker Aker Kvaerner, which requires a special berth to roll out the completed oil rigs it makes.

Companies likely to put in a proposal for the berth are Putrajaya Perdana Bhd and Muhibbah Engineering (M) Bhd.

Ruben also said Westports is buying four twin lift cranes for RM120 million in 2009.

"We will buy more cranes as we expand our current berth line of 3.2km to 3.8km in the next two years due to surging demand and growth in global container volume," he said.

Source: New Straits Times