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Who is behind the two new ferry operators for Labuan - Menumbok ?

By Ezra Haganez
 Finally Sabah Government relented over the monopoly issue of ferry service plying Labuan - Menumbok route, revealing that two new operators had in fact been offered to carry out the service, alongside long-time player Labuan Ferry Corporation (LFC).

Deputy Chief Minister Joseph Pairin Kitingan, in announcing this said the two operators could commence its sevices from Friday (January 21, 2011). However they must first accept certain "conditions" the State laid out in the offer, which Pairin refused to disclose as yet, for them to get their landing rights in Menumbok which is under state jurisdiction. Ferry service permit falls under the Federal Transport Ministry.

It appeared that one obvious condition is for all three operators to allow for both human passengers and vehicles on their ferries, something LFC is carrying out now. People closed to the business claimed that the other conditions would have to be to provide for a fair competition among the three operators. 

Lately Pairin had been blamed by Labuan DAP for foot-dragging over the allegedly "inadequate" service of the sole existing operator.
On this, Pairin said: "Such matters need thorough study and we are doing something, we are not neglecting our responsibilities..."
According to Pairin, the state cabinet at its recent weekly meeting decided to allow three operators for the route to create for a more competitive business which eventually satisfy the expectation of all consumers.

"The State Government hope the three companies will accept the offer to provide ferry services, not just to transport passengers, but also vehicles. It is also our hope that they will be able to provide a more efficient, faster and on time services,” said Pairin who is also the state Infrastructure Development Minister.

Pairin also disclosed that his ministry have identified the two potential operators and would be calling them for discussion soon.

Observers said this admission of Pairin however indicated that the two new operators have yet to agree with the "conditions" while the state government is pressing them to do so as it gives them January 21, 2011 to start business. This the companies could only do if they have the landing rights in Menumbok which would only be granted by the state if the companies agreed to the undisclosed "conditions".

"Judging from this development of the issue, it could be that the new operators are already in the ferry service, otherwise they would not simply buy ferries now if they are not certain of the business they are going into yet. Who the interested parties in these companies is another interesting question..." said an observer who wished to be known only as Chin.

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