Saturday, 12th April, 2003


  High-speed water taxis safe:Yahya
  LABUAN:  The high-speed water taxis operating between here and Menumbok as as Sipitang on the mainland are safe, said Sabah Infrastructure Development Minister Datuk Yahya Hussin.
In giving this assurance here recently, he said the "flimsy looking" water taxis were checked and licensed by the Federal Marine Department.   "The department has a system of checking the security and safety of these boats and there should be no cause for fear about the use of such boats, " he said when asked during his visit to the island. According to a water taxi operator, many such boat owners were asked to upgrade their boats to fiberglass as recommended by the department.,
The boats, equipped with a powerul 240 horsepower engine each can zip across the Labuan -Menumbok channel within 25 minutes. There was an untoward incident involving one of these boats, described by some as "flying coffins", several years ago.  Yahya said

Yahya said there are no illegal water taxis operating there and all existing boats plying the channel are checked regularly by the department. He said there were suggestions to change the plywood built boats to fibreglass ones but believed this would take time for the owners to make the change.

Presently, the boats also provided services to Brunei as well as Limbang and Lawas in Sarawak but following the emergence of the Labuan-Menumbok ferry service, the boats loss business and finally stopped their operations.

He said some had already done so but many were unable to do it due to the high cost, about RM100,000 for a fibreglass boat. In the absence of an efficient and scheduled ferry service from here to the mainland, such water taxis remain popular among travelers seeking a fast connection to the mainland.