PULAU BRUIT (Sarawak), Dec 2 — Kipli Mahji of Kampung Betanak here, had once wondered if he had made the right move in venturing into the fibreglass boat business when he had been fishing all his life as a source of livelihood.
This was because Kipli, 56, better known as Haji Kip, was left ‘unemployed’ for almost two years as there had been no orders received after attending a fiberglass course in Kuala Baram, Miri for two weeks in 2014 organised by the Sarawak Fisheries Department.
With no opportunities and job in sight and already in his fifties, he was in despair and felt trapped until one day in 2016, he was entrusted to build 20 fibreboats by the Malaysian Fisheries Development Authority (LKIM).
When met by Bernama at his workshop located in the fishing village, Haji Kip, who was busy putting the finishing touches on a boat with his three employees said, due to financial constraints then, he had to borrow from his wife RM15,000.
.“I was at a loss, and could not figure out how I was going to buy all the materials for the boats, but thankfully, my wife loaned me the money as capital and LKIM also paid in advance the price of five of the 20 boats, so I used that as revolving funds to build the rest of the boats.” he said
From then on he said orders had be coming in non-stop and many were pleased with the workmanship and quality of the boats which are sold at between RM4,000 and RM15,000, and most of the customers are from Tanjung Manis, Belawai, Bintangor and Pulau Bruit.
Haji Kip said nowadays he has his hands full especially with the monsoon season approaching, and he has to commute frequently to Sibu, Mukah or Pekan Daro by ferry, to get the materials for the boat construction.
This is because currently Pulau Bruit, which is located in the Semop state constituency and Matu-Daro district council is only connected by ferry from two locations, namely Muara Lassa Ferry Point and Batang Paloh Ferry Point.
Meanwhile, Haji Kip said the construction of the Batang Paloh Bridge and Muara Lassa Bridge, when completed could save travel time for the people of Pulau Bruit, and with this convenience, he was confident that his fiberglass boat business would be able to expand with new market of customers.
He said communication problems in Pulau Bruit have somewhat slowed down his business as well as the residents there, and even banking and courier facilities are not available on the island, forcing them to travel to Pekan Daro or Sibu town, which is time consuming on top of having to join the long queue to board the ferry. especially if it is the school holiday or festive seasons.
“I do promote my business on Facebook. Many living outside Pulau Bruit, are interested in coming to my workshop, but the thought of having to take the ferry, put them off. So, hopefully when the bridge is ready, it would be convenient for everyone,” said Haji Kip who is able to build nine boats in a month.
The 1.7 km Batang Paloh Bridge worth RM298.9 million across the Batang Paloh River and the 2.43 km RM597.5 million Muara Lassa Bridge which are expected to be completed in 2023, are part of the Sarawak Coastal Road construction project, fully funded by the state government.