Travelling by boat is no longer the main option for those going back home for Gawai Dayak, judging from the quiet scene at Sibu Express Boat Terminal just a few days before the celebration this Thursday (June 1).
A survey by The Borneo Post yesterday showed only a handful of passengers at the terminal, waiting for speedboats bound for Daro and Dalat.
It is understandable that following the opening of the Sibu-Kapit link road, the demand for passenger boat transport here has fallen drastically, forcing many operations to close down as they could not cope with the losses.
It is learned that the Sibu-Kapit express boat service was discontinued after Jan 14 this year. Back in its heyday, the sector would record an average of 500 passengers at the terminal daily, and the number would shoot up days before the Gawai Dayak celebration.
Frequency-wise, the sector handled at least 10 return trips every day – just before the discontinuation, it was down to only one trip every alternate day.
“There were also extra trips approved by SRB (Sarawak Rivers Board) ahead of Gawai Dayak celebration back then, to accommodate high number of passengers wanting to go back to their longhouses for the holidays.
“The porters were quite popular back then, made famous by photos of them loading motorcycles on board the boats or unloading them to the terminal. Now, the porters are nowhere to be seen,” said one of the few passengers met at the terminal yesterday, who requested anonymity.
However, there were some express boats berthing at the nearby Kapit Wharf.
Just a stone’s throw away from Sibu Express Boat Terminal, the wharf accommodates boats that cover the more-rural Sibu-Passin and Sibu-Mupong sectors.
Meanwhile, the SRB would still carry out safety and compliance checks on the boat operations here, despite the current scenario here.
In a recent announcement, acting SRB controller Lt-Col Ding Tiew Wong had said that the first phase of the operation was scheduled to run from May 26 until 31, followed by the second phase from June 4 until 6.
“It’s a statewide operation, carried out by 110 enforcement personnel with the support of 12 speed boats, in anticipation of the surge in passenger traffic during the school and Gawai Dayak holidays,” he said in a statement.
The Borneo Post