07 March 2009

Ubin bumboats and rude visitors

A disgruntled visitor complained today about rude service from the bumboat operator at Changi when he failed to produce exact change for the fare.

The bumboats bring countless visitors to Pulau Ubin, our last unspoilt island and home to Chek Jawa.
Arriving at Ubin
A relict from Ubin's heyday, the bumboats and the (I consider) very patient operators provide a valuable low-cost service. Without them, it would no doubt cost a lot more to get to Ubin. And very few young people are taking up the bumboat trade. As the old operators literally pass on, I worry about how we will get to Ubin in an affordable manner in the future.

As someone who visits many of our shores regularly, I do know how much it takes to get places. A trip to the Southern Islands can cost $200-300 per 12 persons or $16-25 per person. It costs only $2.50 per person to get to Ubin!!

I have been there collecting personal shares for boat trips and I absolutely insist passengers bring exact change. I treat people who present large bills with the same inconsideration that they show me.

I absolutely have no sympathy for the writer.

Rude bumboat service at Changi ferry terminal
Straits Times Forum 7 Mar 09;
LAST month, I boarded a bumboat at Changi ferry terminal and had to put up with rude service by the steersman, just because I did not have the exact fare.

I handed him $10 for the $2.50 fare. He told me to leave, mouthing vulgar insults at the same time, if I did not have the exact fare.

I am a frequent ferry commuter to Pulau Ubin and this is not the first time I have encountered such rude service. Other customers are treated the same way, including tourists visiting the island.

Do the authorities conduct checks on bumboat operators and crew? Or are such services always overlooked and compromised?

Jervis Lim

Some comments left on the ST online website to this letter:
"The requirement to have the exact fare is posted on the a sign board somewhere near the jetty.

The reasons for using a exact fare with no change offer are many, but I guesss some of them will be:

1. Safety, if the steermans keep changing fare with passengers wil he have time to steer the boat?

2. Saving time, same argument, do you want to waste time at the jetty for everyone to get their change before the boat leave.

Even on our buses if you pay cash you need exact fare.

This is all in the interest of efficiency.

So next time you take a bumboat again get the exact fare."
Posted by: novicereporter at Sat Mar 07 20:19:55 SGT 2009

"Aiyah Jervis Lim, hire or buy yourself a luxury yatch complete with crew so you need not have to put up with these steersmen. Get the exact fare in future. Be considerate. I do not find them rude."
Posted by: Melifont at Sat Mar 07 09:16:23 SGT 2009

"You said this is not the first time you are encountering this. In the past also you probably faced it. Then why it didnot occur to you to bring correct change? You people never learn lesson, uh..? If everybody produces a $ 10 note for $ 2.50 ticket where will the guy go for change?
Posted by: unewokle at Sat Mar 07 08:44:16 SGT 2009"

Another complaint letter appeared on 9 Mar - does the writer want to pay for these 'improved' services?

Overhaul bumboat services
Straits Times Forum 9 Mar 09;

I CANNOT but agree with the observations of Mr Jervis Lim in his letter last Friday, 'Rude bumboat service at Changi ferry terminal', in which he expressed his dissatisfaction over the service provided by bumboat operators. It is time the system was overhauled to reflect changing times and conditions.

As a regular visitor to Pulau Ubin and Penggerang, I feel the Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) should take over all operations. This will ensure the ferry tragedies of the Philippines and Indonesia will not become a feature of our maritime sector. According to the MPA website, the statutory board was established to 'advance and safeguard Singapore's strategic maritime interests'. It also proudly proclaims that it partners other agencies 'to enhance safety, security and environmental protection of our port waters, facilitate port operations'.

Changi ferry terminal is very crowded on weekends, public holidays and during school holidays as hordes of schoolchildren make a beeline for Ubin. Currently, there is no ticket sales and the bumboat operator collects fares himself from passengers. The operator is usually irked when a passenger offers him a big note. On several occasions, I noticed the bumboats were far from seaworthy and during a heavy shower, the roofs leaked and I had to hold an umbrella to protect myself from the rain.

To revamp the system, perhaps MPA could employ these bumboat operators (so they do not lose their livelihood) and provide them with proper uniforms, which will improve their public image. MPA could also regularly check the bumboats for seaworthiness.

As a seasoned visitor to Ubin since the fare was only $1 (it is now $2.50), I hope MPA will not ignore this problem. With the influx of tourists, more foreigners will flood Ubin, whose flora and fauna have much to offer. If MPA is not keen, perhaps the Singapore Tourism Board can take over operations and make Ubin an attraction to draw more tourists to Singapore.

Heng Cho Choon

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