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Huge gap between port and town

24 SEPTEMBER 2011 - The secret seashore which used to be my swimming ground in Port Klang in my teenage years is now the site of the world’s 13th largest port.

Today the important sea gateway for 90% of the Malaysia’s imports and exports mark the centennial celebration with pride but it brings back happy, scary and sad memories of my hometown.

I am happy because my swimming ground is the home of the Northport, Southpoint and Westport are the lifeline for my four generations in terms of livelihood, entertainment and hope.

My late grandfather S. Govin-dasamy was a Class A road contractor responsible for the construction of the roads to the ports.

Almost all his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren are now working in agencies related to the port.

Although I may not be working for the port directly, a major part of my career as a journalist revolved around Port Klang.

I was The Star’s correspondent in Klang in the 1980s, covering port issues and later became the Maritime editor focusing on reports related to sea trade in Port Klang in the 1990s.

Although the ports had left lasting impressions in my life, it also reflected some scary moments. I was affected by the June 5, 1980 port fire and blast at the then South Port which claimed three lives and left a few hundred port workers and residents injured.

I was injured in the blast together with the then port authority general manager Datuk M. Rajasingam while covering the disaster. Until today the big explosion which crippled the port operations for months remains a mystery.

Another mishap which still gives me goosebumps is the drowning of my close friend Gerard Sathiaraj while swimming at the seaside which is now Wharf 25 at Northport.

Port Klang means a lot to me because I was born at No 619B government quarters in Jalan Barrowmen (now known as Jalan Lengkungan) and the township is nothing without the ports.

Like many Port Klang residents, I am proud of my hometown because it is an important shipping gateway for the country and although it may be less visited by many Malaysians, it is world renowned as an international stopover among mariners.

While Port Klang celebrates its 100-year-old birthday today, residents do not feel the same because the town has been left behind from the port development.

The dreadful state of Port Klang with abandoned buildings, undulating roads, eyesore shoreline and stench brought shame than joy to the residents.

My favourite Cathay and Rex cinemas remain closed, the famous seafood restaurant Port View made way for maritime development, Port Klang’s first hotel Deluxe closed down while the infamous Samy Road was sacrificed in the name of the development.

Viaducts and bypass stretches linking the three ports had not included the town in their economic activities but instead avoided and disabled the town’s commercial activities.

While the ports remain busy round the clock, the town becomes dead at night and is no longer a favourite stop for seamen and tourists.

Several ambitious multimillion ringgit plans to beautify and transform the Port Klang seafront never left the drawing board.

It is about time port operators and local council administrators jointly take a serious look at the neglected state of affairs of Port Klang which gives a depressing impression to local and foreign visitors.

All towns housing major ports in the world like Rotterdam, Huston and Shanghai are developed as vibrant transport cities supporting the industry and Port Klang should follow the same.

We need not go far to model a seaport city.

Just take a drive down south to Singapore and see how the Port of Singapore has transformed into a world renowned vibrant city and country.

I moved out of my hometown to stay in Subang Jaya to be close to my workplace but I still make regular trips to visit my mum and treat myself to the delicious chicken chop and hokkien mee served at Cathay Bar in Jalan Kem.

I sincerely hope the movers and the shakers in Westport, Northport and Southpoint will team up with the Port Klang Authority to transform Port Klang into a garden port city.