Nearly 50 passengers on board a ferry from Malaysia could not disembark at Changi Ferry Terminal on Thursday night as a barge belonging to a contractor carrying out jetty upgrading works was blocking the way.
In response to queries from The Sunday Times, a spokesman for the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said on Friday that the terminal, which is operated by the Johor Port Authority (JPA), is currently undergoing jetty upgrading works.
At about 7.45pm on Thursday, MPA was informed that an incoming ferry with 49 passengers from Tanjung Belungkor, near Desaru, could not berth at the jetty because of a barge that was obstructing its path. This barge was deployed by JPA's contractor, which was overseeing upgrading works, MPA said.
Lianhe Wanbao said in a report on Friday that the passengers were stuck on the ferry for 45 minutes, with some people becoming so angry that they called the police.
MPA said Singapore Police Force officers responded to the incident and helped the affected passengers to disembark safely.
A passenger who wanted to be known only as Mrs Chan said she left Desaru at 6.50pm and was supposed to arrive in Singapore at 7.10pm. However, when the ferry arrived at Changi Ferry Terminal, the crew did not allow them to disembark, said the 38-year-old, who works in the medical industry.
"We went to the roof of the ferry and only then did we realise that a barge was blocking the way," she said. She added that about 10 passengers who had flights to catch tried to climb out of the ferry.
All the passengers left the ferry terminal only after 9pm, more than two hours after they were supposed to arrive, according to Mrs Chan.
She said she could not understand how anyone could let the barge block the ferry terminal and prevent other ferries from accessing it. "I just cannot believe it, it's so ridiculous," she said.
To help respond to any emergency situation that might arise while passengers were disembarking, MPA deployed its patrol craft.
After the incident, JPA issued a stop-work order to its contractor and towed the barge away to prevent it from obstructing incoming ferries.
It is unclear if any other ferries were affected. According to Malaysian ferry company Limbongan Maju's website, its last ferry to Singapore from Tanjung Belungkor departs at 6.30pm and arrives in Changi at 7pm. An employee at the firm told The Sunday Times that one of its ferries was affected by the barge on Thursday, but the barge has since been towed away.
Ferry services at Changi Ferry Terminal resumed at 8am on Friday as per normal.
JPA general manager Muhammad Razif Ahmad said the ferry was blocked because the contractor - tasked with installing a new pontoon - arrived ahead of schedule. "It should not happen in the future. We have already coordinated with MPA and the contractor. I don't think it will be repeated," he said.
MPA said it was investigating the incident along with JPA, and will also work together to ensure the smooth operation of ferry services during upgrading works at the terminal.
•Additional reporting by Shannon Teoh