Visitors can now stay overnight in raft houses like this on Sungai Sepang.
TAKING a river cruise along Sungai Sepang is one of the attractions listed on Visit Sepang 2020 calendar.
However, many of the boats offering the sightseeing tours do not have the relevant licences – putting the lives of those on board and others at risk.
In view of the expected increase in the number of operators who will be offering such tours, the Sepang Municipal Council (MPSepang) is taking steps to ensure they have the proper licence.
Many of those organising river cruise trips are also fishermen who do not have permits to carry passengers.
MPSepang Licensing Department director Noor Halif Noorzan said they are working together with the Marine Department to rectify this.
“We are working together with the Marine Department to engage the boatmen on the licensing requirements.
“The council also plans to work with the Negri Sembilan authorities as half of Sungai Sepang is on their side,” said Nor Halif.
There are an estimated 30 boat operators offering river cruises on Sungai Sepang. Many are fishermen who take passengers on board to earn extra income.
Starting from RM30 per head, the river cruise packages range from a leisurely 30-minute boat ride to clam hunting expeditions along the river’s mangrove swamps.
Of the five million visitors the council is expecting next year, it is estimated 5% of them will go on a Sungai Sepang river cruise.
“We foresee having two trips every 30 minutes on the river,” said MPSepang Public Relations and Corporate Unit director Norrehan Amat Kasman.
Norrehan said the Bagan Lalang beach area could become a tourist hotspot like Port Dickson.
In addition to fish farms, wildlife and nature, boat operators also cater to anglers.
The latest attraction are night stays on raft houses built on the water. Rates can start from RM400 a night per unit.
The usual route taken by cruise operators covers some 7km of Sungai Sepang from Sirip Biru Jetty to Kampung Tanjung Mas Batu Dua.
The trip also includes a ride up Sungai Tuntung, one of the tributaries in Sungai Sepang.
Avani Sepang Goldcoast recreation manager Irwan Ishak gave assurance that its boats and pilots have obtained proper licences for the river cruises.
“We have been renewing our licence yearly since 2009. We cater to international tourists and they are very mindful of safety,” he said.
Other boat operators interviewed said they were still in the midst of obtaining information on the types of licences required.
“We will be organising a dialogue with the Marine Department and Persatuan Nelayan Kawasan Sepang (PNKSepang) members as many of the boat operators are also full-time fishermen,” said one operator who did not want to be named.
He added that many fishermen were worried about the cost of obtaining the licence as well as methods used to evaluate a helmsman’s competency as some only have primary school education,
When contacted, Marine Department Corporate Unit head Yusnan Abdul Rani said under the Merchant Shipping Ordinance, 1952 (MSO1952), any boat that plies at any port, river or place in Peninsular Malaysia for the purpose of business, sports, leisure or recreational activity must be licensed.
The Merchant Shipping (Amendment And Extension) Act 2011 (Act 1393) mandates licensing for boats of less than 300 gross tonnage operating in our waters.
For the certificate of competency for helmsman (boat drivers), the basic requirement is completion of a mate course.
Yusnan said engagement sessions will be held in Sungai Sepang so that those offering such trips are aware of what is needed.
“During these engagement sessions, we will provide technical advice on vessel inspection, safety requirements and the requirements to get the certificate of competency,” said Yusnan.
Under Section 474 of MSO1952, any person who uses or permits a boat to be used without a licence shall be liable to a fine not exceeding RM10,000 while those who are caught operating a boat without a licence shall be liable to a fine not exceeding RM5,000.-thestar online.