Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Port Klang Revisited

Last week I had the opportunity to google mapped Port Klang where I worked for almost 5 years in the shipping installation. Memories flooded my mind as I tried recollecting those days in the late 1970s onward that I drove daily for an hour to work from my home in Petaling Jaya.

In the recent weekend that my wife and I took to drive north to visit my mother in the old folks home where we found to our comfort and assurance that she is under good care I suggested we return home via a different route that takes us into Port Klang and then Klang to visit a friend who recently moved into their new house in Ambang Botanic.

After leaving my mother and assuring her we will be coming back very soon to celebrate her 88th birthday in August we took the coastal road into Port Klang. Being totally unfamiliar with this route my GPS navigator came in extremely handy. In fact it has helped me get out of wrong detours many a time that I even joked that my English navigator will always take me safely to my destination even if the route is a little longer.

On arrival at Port Klang I was greeted by a mess. The town was quite unkempt and saw very little development in the town centre except for an ugly massive overhead highway that snaked some 20 feet over the existing Jalan Kem. This highway linked North Port and the West Port via the Klang Strait Highway and Pulau Indah Highway. The adjacent shops were made unusable by this monstrous concrete structure that came within a few feet of the shops. And the roads I drove on are narrow and poorly maintained. The latter perhaps excusable as heavy commercial vehicles, trucks and containers ply certain stretches getting into the port installations.

I wanted to go to the Jalan Berembang where I worked before. It is in the older South Port area where barges and smaller ships berth to load and unload their cargoes. Containers and large vessels cannot berth here but in the North Port and the newer West Port which have deep water harbors for them to dock safely without grounding.

Even with the GPS finding Jalan Berembang was an effort. Although I could spot the familiar blue bulk storage tanks in the company I worked in (yes, the color had remained as it was even after 30 years!) I couldn't find the access as the road sign was non-existent. Making a second try I managed to find the road but what I saw was absolutely different from what I last imagined. There were flats and stalls and the surroundings were unkempt. I drove on very slowly, stopping twice to gaze at the other installations nearby, FELDA Bulk and Socship, before passing a convoy of parked lorry tankers to reach the installation I had worked in, HMPB Latex.

Being a Sunday there was no activity according to the security guard. I had thought the installation had gone out of business. In my days Sundays were working days. Our work was decided by the timetable of the tanker vessel into which we'd pump palm oil or latex for export. The port authority was guided by the tide to schedule the date and time each vessel will berth and depart from. Our shipping crew must ensure the liquid products were ready for pumping along the pipelines leading to the quayside. In the case of palm oil to ensure it was sufficiently heated up, in the case of latex, sufficiently matured, both to minimize risks of pipeline blockages that can lead to serious downtime, even missed shipment and penalties.

On this particular Sunday all the installations at Jalan Berembang were closed as there were no loading planned. I looked around inside and out. Nothing seems to have changed, even the signboard. The ownership of this installation had changed several years ago. Obviously the new owner was not bothered in ensuring visitors are aware of this. I took several photos for remembrance and explained to my wife what I used to do there 30 years ago. She never had the chance to visit being busy at work and looking after our 3 children. The security guard who had left his post when we arrived for a break and returned before we left explained that there is no more latex shipments now, only the palm oil. My request to enter for a look around was properly denied for security reason although I identified myself. In my mind I vividly recall a typical day when I reported for work at the JBI as we call it. I still remember the names of some of my colleagues, Yap Man Chan, Paul Eng, Kamaruddin Majid and Boilerman Din. Like me they have all retired. I wonder their whereabout...

Port Klang. It took up 5 years of my working life. It is no longer what I remembered. Those days were definitely better than now.

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