Overhaul bumboat services to Pulau Ubin

Straits Times Forum 9 Mar 09;

I CANNOT but agree with the observations of Mr Jervis Lim in his letter last Friday, 'Rude bumboat service at Changi ferry terminal', in which he expressed his dissatisfaction over the service provided by bumboat operators. It is time the system was overhauled to reflect changing times and conditions.

As a regular visitor to Pulau Ubin and Penggerang, I feel the Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) should take over all operations. This will ensure the ferry tragedies of the Philippines and Indonesia will not become a feature of our maritime sector. According to the MPA website, the statutory board was established to 'advance and safeguard Singapore's strategic maritime interests'. It also proudly proclaims that it partners other agencies 'to enhance safety, security and environmental protection of our port waters, facilitate port operations'.

Changi ferry terminal is very crowded on weekends, public holidays and during school holidays as hordes of schoolchildren make a beeline for Ubin. Currently, there is no ticket sales and the bumboat operator collects fares himself from passengers. The operator is usually irked when a passenger offers him a big note. On several occasions, I noticed the bumboats were far from seaworthy and during a heavy shower, the roofs leaked and I had to hold an umbrella to protect myself from the rain.

To revamp the system, perhaps MPA could employ these bumboat operators (so they do not lose their livelihood) and provide them with proper uniforms, which will improve their public image. MPA could also regularly check the bumboats for seaworthiness.

As a seasoned visitor to Ubin since the fare was only $1 (it is now $2.50), I hope MPA will not ignore this problem. With the influx of tourists, more foreigners will flood Ubin, whose flora and fauna have much to offer. If MPA is not keen, perhaps the Singapore Tourism Board can take over operations and make Ubin an attraction to draw more tourists to Singapore.

Heng Cho Choon