Demand for ferries between S'pore and Malaysia, Indonesia increases
Ferry rides to nearby destinations in Indonesia and Malaysia are once again proving irresistible to Singaporeans eyeing a quick, fuss-free escapade.
Between January and September 2022, 1.1 million passengers passed through Singapore's international ferry terminals in HarbourFront Centre and Tanah Merah.
The Singapore Cruise Centre, which runs both terminals, told The Sunday Times that passenger volume at its terminals is now at 45 per cent of pre-Covid-19 levels.
This is compared with 18,000 passengers for the whole of 2021.
In June, with the reopening of borders, HarbourFront Passenger Terminal got back to business after more than two years of closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
More buoyancy came when a ferry service between Tanah Merah and Desaru on Johor's eastern coast was launched in July, with one round trip a day from Thursday to Sunday for now.
Operator Batam Fast has logged a steady increase in demand for the Desaru ferry service. Mr Chua Choon Leng, its general manager, said that 2,000 passengers used the service in July. This went up to 2,600 in August and 3,500 in September, with travellers drawn by the cycling routes and golf courses there.
Evergreen ferry destinations Batam and Bintan remain popular, with Mr Iwan Yang, director at travel agency Batam Getaway, noting that the Indonesian islands are known for good seafood and beach resorts.
Mr Chua said that between July and September, an average of 50,000 passengers a month used Batam Fast's ferry service between Batam and Singapore, compared with an average of 10,000 passengers a month between April and June.
However, the numbers are still a fraction of what they were - 200,000 to 250,000 passengers a month - before the pandemic, he added.
A Bintan Resort Ferries spokesman said that 18,400 passengers used its service between Singapore and Bintan in September, up from 12,600 in June.
Dr Michael Chiam, a senior lecturer in tourism at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, said Batam and Bintan are popular options for short weekend getaways as they offer food, massage and shopping bargains, especially with the strong Singapore currency.
He added: "Desaru is also convenient to get to by ferry rather than driving as the Causeway jam can be quite unpredictable, especially during the long weekends."
The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said Batam Fast has applied to operate another route between Tanah Merah and Tanjung Pengelih in Johor.
Visitors can see the remains of the Pengerang Battery in Johor set up by the British forces to defend Singapore during World War II.
MPA is assessing the application and will approve it when the necessary requirements are met.
Ms Liwen Huang, 31, is excited over the possibility of more routes.
On Oct 7, the relationship manager took a ferry to Bintan for a three-day trip with her husband and two friends. They stayed at the Cassia Bintan resort and enjoyed massages and a fireflies tour.
Ms Huang said: "A ferry ride is usually only an hour long so it is very convenient and fast to visit nearby places."