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  Today Online 14 Oct 06
Shipshape, almost
Marina South Pier concerns being addressed, tenants adapt to new surroundings
Tor Ching Li chingli@mediacorp.com.sg

Channel NewsAsia 12 Oct 06
MPA making special arrangements for pilgrims to Kusu Island
By Dominique Loh

SINGAPORE: Pilgrims to Kusu Island are making adjustments to travel plans with the closure of Clifford Pier.

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore is also making special arrangements at the new Marina South Pier to ensure a smooth passage during the pilgrimage season.

On October 22nd, the only way for pilgrims to Kusu Island will be from the new Marina South Pier, as all other transfers to Kusu Island will be suspended during this year's pilgrimage season.

Some 100,000 people are expected to descend on Kusu Island to make their offerings.

Anticipating the sudden influx of people on this new departure point, the MPA for one is providing a free shuttle service to get people to the terminal. The frequency of SBS Transit service "402" will also be increased. With a partial road closure at the junction at Marina Boulevard and Marina Mall, no vehicle will be allowed into the terminal building. Road marshals and extra staff will also be deployed to direct traffic.

"For this period itself, to accommodate the big crowds here, we are putting in additional toilets to make sure that people have access to amenities. We are also going to put up tentages around the building itself so that if the queue does extend outside of the building the pilgrims will actually be sheltered from the elements," said Richard Tan, Director, Corporate Services, Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore.

Some 10,000 people are expected in the first four hours of the pilgrimage alone, and ferry operator Penguin will deploy at least eight vessels. With the new pier, it is just a 15 minute sail, half of what it used to be. On top of that, pilgrims also have the option of taking bum boats operating from MPS.

"Obviously we want to make sure that everybody is tuned-in into the arrangements around here. What we'll do is take this year as a learning experience to see all the points where passengers may be actually inconvenienced and we'll use this as an opportunity to learn," said Mr Tan.

In the Hokkien dialect, Kusu Island also means 'Tortoise' Island, and the yearly pilgrimage to the island stems from a popular myth. Legend has it that a tortoise transformed itself into an island to save two sailors lost at sea. And a year later, they returned to Kusu Island to give thanks. - CNA /dt

Today Online 14 Oct 06
Shipshape, almost
Marina South Pier concerns being addressed, tenants adapt to new surroundings
Tor Ching Li chingli@mediacorp.com.sg

IT wasn't smooth sailing at first, but most of the tenants who were moved from Clifford Pier to Marina South Pier in April have now adjusted well to their modern surroundings.

Said Mr Chua Meng Chuan, secretary of the Singapore Clifford Pier Motor Boat Association: "There were a lot of problems at first, but we've managed to solve these together with the authorities."

Some of the problems that were ironed out with the 17 bumboat operators include poor mobile phone coverage, insufficient parking lots and equipment such as safety buoys, life jackets and water dispensers.

Said a Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) spokesperson: "We have been maintaining constant dialogue with the bumboat operators to understand and address any business or operational concerns, even before the move to Marina South Pier."

For example, available parking space has almost doubled from 47 to 81 car park bays and from 17 to 33 motorcycle bays. The MPA is working with the Urban Redevelopment Authority to put up a shelter at the bus stop.

The only remaining bugbear is the lack of transport options available for the public. Compared to Clifford Pier, which was easily accessible by MRT, several buses and taxis, only one bus service No 402 run by SBS Transit plies the route to Marina South Pier every 25 minutes.

The transport company has reportedly been approached on the possibility of increasing the frequency of service. So far, SBS Transit has only agreed to do so for the Kusu pilgrimage season from Oct 22 to Nov 20. Service 402 will run every five minutes instead of the usual 25 minutes to cater to an expected 100,000 devotees over the next four weeks.

Mr Michael Yong, general manager of cruise operator EastWind Organisation, is pinning his hopes on the publicity that the Kusu pilgrimage will have for the pier.

"I hope the authorities can do more to promote awareness about Marina South Pier among tourists," he said. As a cruise operator, Mr Yong is one of the tenants most badly affected by the move. Walk-in business has been almost non-existent, and the inaccessibility of the location puts off some tourists.

Bumboat operators are not affected as their business involves ferrying sailors from their ships to shore and back. In fact, said Mr Henry Lim of Leng Launchers: "We're nearer to the ships here so we save 15 minutes travelling to and fro. We're happy about that."

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