Penang’s rich history evokes images of well-known seafarers, such as Zheng He, Sir James Lancaster and Captain Francis Light, yet most modern Penangites are disinterested in boating. The international boating industry is a highly lucrative one and PEM looks at whether Penang has the right ingredients to become a regional boating hub.
When you gaze out over the sea around Penang, there is emptiness, the absence of boats of various shapes and sizes, save for the ubiquitous ferries, the occasional fishing boats and the unregulated water sports activities in Batu Ferringhi (1). Contrast this with other historic islands in the vicinity, such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Phuket and Langkawi. The contrast with the other place where I live, Houlgate in Normandy, France is even starker. You sometimes wonder whether anybody is left on shore.
To understand why the local boating scene is rather sleepy and why so few Penangites venture out into the sea it is necessary to examine Penang’s boating infrastructure, the state’s human resources and Penangites’ general ambivalence for the sea.
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