Friday, April 30, 2010

Brunei tourism in cruise mode

Majestic MS Costa Romantica docked at Muara Port

Swimming pool on board MS Costa Romantica

Shopping area inside MS Costa Romantica

Photos courtesy of and Copyright to James Kon and Brunei Press Sdn Bhd

By James Kon

Efforts to make Muara Port as the main gateway into the country by sea by increasing the connectivity is gaining momentum with the rise in number of cruise ships and shipping liners calling on the port.

Last year, 24 cruise liners carrying 20,599 passengers and 9,894 crews had called on Muara Port.

This year, 26 vessels are scheduled to dock at the port including two to six cruise liners per month and the number is expected to increase further by 2011.

Yesterday, Muara Port welcomed the arrival of the cruise ship MS Costa Romantica and container vessel MV Guang Ping on their maiden journey to Brunei.

Cruise ship MS Costa Romantica sailed from Kota Kinabalu to Brunei on its maiden voyage. The ship was carrying around 1,200 passengers and 550 crewmembers on board. Weighing 53,049 tonnes, measuring 220 metres in length and 14 decks high, the ship has the capacity to carry 1,690 passengers and 590 crews.

The cruise ship will arrive in Brunei four times every 14 days. The route it follows is Hong Kong-Manila-Kota Kinabalu-Brunei -Singapore-Ho Chi Minh-Da Nang-Hong Kong.

The docking of the new cruise vessel is expected to increase tourism, thus creating more business opportunities for local freight travel agents, tour companies and other related businesses.

Hj Awang Bujang bin Hj Tinkong, Acting Director of Ports Department, lauded the service offered by Costa Crociere SPA, Italy, the Principal of MS Costa Romantica as yet another milestone for the department to attract cruise vessels to call on Muara Port and increase connectivity with other major tourist destinations in the region.

Meanwhile, Captain of the ship Pietro Sinisi said, "We received a very warm welcome after arriving in Brunei. The passengers were presented with souvenirs and welcomed by songs. I hope that the welcoming ceremony would continue."

He also added that Muara Port has very good facilities like the cruise centre and so on.

Meanwhile the arrival of MV Guang Ping as an additional shipping service for importers and exporters is set to help reduce container sea freight charges.

Commenting on the concern of the high cost of shipping goods in and out of Brunei, Hj Awang Bujang said, "With the additional shipping service, container sea freight charges are expected to be reduced and Bruneian importers and exporters would have an additional choice of vessel.

"We are expecting freight charges to drop as more shipping liners are available. Importers and exporters will have more options to choose from and this logically will reduce the price," he explained.

"There are a total of eight shipping liners and with the arrival of MV Guang Ping, there are nine shipping liners now," he added.

MV Guang Ping, the 629 TEUs container vessel belonging to Geniki Lines Sdn Bhd, was built in September 2009. It is 110.08 metres in length and has a gross tonnage of 5,275. It will be deployed on a 10-day loop to cover Port Klang, Singapore, Pasir Gudang, Muara, Kota Kinabalu and back to Port Klang.

The Guang Ping will also provide services to Muara, Brunei Darussalam with Strait Borneo Express Services (SBX), offering a transit of 2.5 days in Muara.

The new service is expected to increase the container throughput at Muara Container Terminal thereby creating more business opportunities to local freight forwarders and transportation companies.

According to Johor-based Geniki Lines, around 3,500-4,000 TEUs are expected to be handled to and from Muara Port from the month of April to December this year.

In an interview with Mr Joseph Foo, General Manager of Geniki Lins, he said, "The objective of increasing our shipping lines to Muara is to strengthen our competitiveness in the East Peninsular. With the new shipping line of Muara, we have cut short the shipping time by 66 hours or two to five days."

In line with the strategic objectives of the Ministry of Communications and towards realising the vision of Muara Port becoming the hub of the BIMP-EAGA area, the Ports Department will continue its effort to attract and encourage more shipping liners to make frequent calls on the Muara Port without losing sight of the importance of maritime safety and security aspects.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

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