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This article is about a town in Sarawak, Malaysia. For the administrative district, see Bintulu District. For the administrative division, see Bintulu Division.
Other transcription(s)
 • Chinese 民都鲁
The Bintulu town
The Bintulu town
Official seal of Bintulu
Bintulu Development Authority
Nickname(s): "Energy Town of Sarawak"
Bintulu is located in East Malaysia
Location in Borneo
Bintulu is located in Malaysia
Location in Malaysia
Coordinates: 3°10′24″N 113°2′36″E / 3.17333°N 113.04333°E / 3.17333; 113.04333Coordinates: 3°10′24″N 113°2′36″E / 3.17333°N 113.04333°E / 3.17333; 113.04333
Country  Malaysia
State  Sarawak
Division Bintulu Division
District Bintulu District
Founded by James Brooke 1861 - 1867
 • Type Bintulu Development Authority
 • General Manager Rodziah Haji Morshidi[1]
 • Local authority area (Bintulu Division)[2] 12,515 km2 (4,832 sq mi)
Elevation[3] 2 m (7 ft)
Lowest elevation 0 m (0 ft)
Population (2010)[5]
 • Bintulu town 114,058
 • Local authority area 212,994[4]
Time zone MST (UTC+8)
 • Summer (DST) Not observed (UTC+8)
Postal code 97xxx
International dialling code prefix +6086 (landline only)
Vehicle registration plate prefix QT (for all vehicles except taxis)
HQ (for taxis only)

Bintulu /bnˈtl/ (Chinese: 民都鲁; pinyin: Mín dū lǔ) is a coastal town in the central region of Sarawak, Malaysia. It is located at 610 kilometers northeast of Kuching.[6] Bintulu is also located between Miri and Sibu which is 216 kilometers northeast of Sibu[7] and 200 km southwest of Miri.[8] Bintulu town has a population of 114,058 in 2010.[5] It is also the capital of Bintulu District of Bintulu Division, Sarawak, Malaysia.


There are several legends that are related to the name of Bintulu. During the Brooke era, the indigenous Iban people still practices headhunting to maintain their social statuses in the community. They thrown the heads into Kemena river, near the old Bintulu General Hospital. Therefore, heads have to be collected from the river. The practice of collecting heads was known as "Mentu Ulau" (picking heads)[9] in the local native language.[10] There is another story where the two Iban warriors named Bernik and Jelab built houses along the river. They and their followers frequently carried out head preservation (menyalai kepala) activities near a small river stream branching off from Sebezaw River because the river bank was flat and wide. Therefore, the small river stream was named "Mentu Ulau" river.[11] Outsiders who came to Bintulu subsequently pronounced the name as "Mentulau" and later the name was evolved into "Bentulu" and finally "Bintulu".[12] There is another legend where the Bintulu residents were described to have long heads. This is known as "Bat Ulau" in Melanau language which was subsequently adapted as "Bintulu".[10]


Brooke administration[edit]

Fort Keppel in 1868.

By 1861, Sultanate of Brunei ceded the Bintulu region (until Tanjung Kidurong) to James Brooke.[13][14] Bintulu was a small settlement at that time. A wooden fort named Fort Keppel was built in the town,[15] named after Sir Henry Keppel, who was a close friend for the Rajah James and Charles Brooke. Sir Henry Keppel was responsible for crushing Dayak piracy in Saribas between 1840 to 1850.[16] An Italian botanist named Odoardo Beccari visited Bintulu in 1867. On 4 August, he started his journey on a gunboat named "Heartsease" which was to send $ 6,000 to Brunei for concession being made to Rajah of Sarawak on the Mukah and Bintulu regions. He went to Labuan before coming back to Bintulu and dropped off at Kemena River on 13 August 1867. His observations of Bintulu town was recorded as follows:[17]

The fort of Bintulu which was built entirely of wood, was in somewhat ruinous condition. It stood nearly on the sea-shore, and just behind it, at a distance of few paces, the primeval forests commenced...Some chinamen had settled at the vicinity of the fort and had built a small bazaar; but the village is chiefly formed by the houses of the Melanau beyond the Chinese kampong (village). These Melanaus used to lived further up the river, but since the construction of the fort, and the installation of an officer of the Rajah near the mouth of the river, they came to settle near the sea - a thing they would never have dared to do in former days for fear of the attacks of the Lanun pirates and Dayak pirates.[17]

—Reported by Odoardo Beccari in 1904

The Melanau houses were built in rows on both sides of the Kemena river, mostly furnished by Nipah and Sago palms. Each house had its own shed projection into the entrance of the river which was used for the production of sago.[17][18] On 8 September 1867, Sarawak first General Council meeting (now Sarawak State Legislative Assembly) took place in a fishing village here. It was made up of 21 members elected from local community members (5 British officers and 16 local chiefs of Malay and Melanau races). The Council was formed by Raja Muda Charles Brooke under the orders from Rajah James Brooke. The Council is the oldest state legislative assembly in Malaysia.[19][20][21]

Japanese occupation[edit]

During World War II, the Brooke government under the leadership of Charles Vyner Brooke, constructed airstrips in Kuching, Oya, Mukah, Bintulu, and Miri. Airstrip construction in Bintulu was started in 1934 when C W Bailey, a Works and Building Inspector for the British Royal Air Force (RAF) began the construction of the airstrip. By 1938, all airstrips were completed except for Bintulu where construction was discontinued in October 1938 due to financial reasons.[22] In 1958, Bailey was killed in an air crash in Singapore. During the occupation, the Japanese made full use of the airport for military purposes. The British only started to reconstruct the airport after the war. A lot of unexploded bombs were found during the reconstruction.[23]

On 5 September 1942, there was an execution of 5 men at Padungan, Kuching (current location of Kuching South City Council) who were caught for stealing petrol. The execution was witnessed by the Japanese Field Marshal Prince Maida (前田利为),[24][25] who was also the cousin of Japanese emperor.[26] Prince Maida later boarded a plane to Labuan that day to officiate an airport that bear his name. However, he never arrived. One month later, the plane was found to have crashed off the coast of Tanjung Datu, Bintulu. The cause of the plane crash was not known. The Japanese later set up a wooden pole memorial made up of Belian wood in Bintulu. The wooden pole was later taken back to Japan by Prince Maida family.[23][27]

Chinese sawmill owners at Sibu and Bintulu were instructed by the Japanese to produce timber for repairs at oil fields and ship building. During the Japanese occupation, sawmills at Bintulu produced a total of 4,000 tons of sawn timber.[28]

Post-war period[edit]

Bintulu fishing village in 1950s.

In the 1950s, main economic activities in Bintulu was timber extraction industry, fishing, and Sago processing.[18] In the 1960s, Bintulu was still a small fishing village, consisting a population of 5,000. No roads were constructed in Bintulu at that time until the 1969 when the first untarred road was built to connect from Bintulu to Miri. The first buses that service the Miri to Bintulu route was owned by Majlis Amanah Rakyat (MARA). The MARA buses was an initiative by the Malaysian federal government to provide public transportation for the people. The Iban villagers would pay the bus driver with vegetables, chickens, bamboo shoots and other items because they had no money. Before 1960, Bintulu was connected to Kuching by sea through a ship named "M V Swee Joo". After 1960, "M V Chin Chin" was introduced to the route. It took around 36 to 48 hours to reach Bintulu from Kuching, depending on the sea condition. Due to lack of food supplies from Kuching, the villagers had to make do with the limited food, and several villagers had resorted to hunting in the jungles to increase the food supply.[23]

There were only 3 schools in Bintulu in 1960, namely St Anthony Primary School, Chung Hua Primary School, and Orang Kaya Mohammad Primary School. These schools only provided classes until Primary 3. There were no secondary schools in Bintulu. Villagers would have to pursue their secondary school studies at either Miri or Kuching by using small boats as there were no roads connecting Bintulu to either Miri or Kuching. After the formation of Malaysia, Bintulu had its first secondary school named Bintulu Government Secondary School in 1964. In 1967, Bintulu celebrated first 100 years of Council Negri meeting (Sarawak State Legislative Assembly). A stone monument was built in front of a government rice storeroom[12] order to commemorate the event.[29] Bintulu was a sub-district of Miri Division in the 1970s.[23] The sub-district was upgraded into a district in 1987.[30]

Discovery of oil and gas reserves[edit]

Menara Kidurong is the headquarter of Bintulu Port Authority (BPA).

Large reserves of natural gas was discovered offshore Bintulu in 1969. Following this, a feasibility study was done in 1975 in which Tanjung Kidurong was found to be a suitable site for deep-water port.[13] On 14 June 1978, Malaysia LNG Sdn Bhd (MLNG Satu) was established by Petronas, a Malaysian national oil and gas company for Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) processing at Bintulu.[18] On 8 July 1978, Bintulu Development Authority (BDA) was established by the Sarawak state government for infrastructure development and to promote industrial investment in the area.[31] Over the next 10 years, a total of RM 10 billion was spent in Bintulu to upgrade its facilities and services.[18] On 15 August 1981, Bintulu Port Authority was established at Tanjung Kidurong and it started operation on 1 January 1983.[32]

Rural-urban migration is significant in Bintulu because of greater job availability here. Unable to find an affordable housing, these people have started several squatter areas[33] around Kidurong Industrial estate[34] and Sungai Sebatang.[35] Therefore, several low-cost housing projects initiated by BDA and Sarawak state government to relocate the squatters.[36][37]

Bintulu is currently a gateway to Samalajau Industrial Park.[38] The industrial park is located 62 km away from Bintulu, currently under the purview of Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE). It is a centre of heavy and energy intensive industries.[39] Among the companies that started their operations in the industrial park are Tokuyama Malaysia Sdn Bhd, Press Metal Bintulu Sdn Bhd, and OM Materials Sdn Bhd.[40]


BDA Head Office in Bintulu town.

Bintulu town is represented by Bintulu parliamentary seat (P. 217) in Parliament of Malaysia. The town is also represented by 3 state assembly seats namely Jepak, Kidurong, and Kemena in Sarawak State Legislative Assembly.[41]

Local authorities[edit]

Bintutlu town is administered by Bintulu Development Authority (BDA) since 1978, located at Tanjung Kidurong.[42] The town is located within the boundary of Bintulu District which consists of 183,402 population[5] with a total area of 7220.40 km2.[43] Bintulu Division was formerly a Bintulu District under the jurisdiction of Miri Division. The former Bintulu District was upgraded to Bintulu Division on 1 January 1987. At the same time, Bintulu sub-district was upgraded to the present-day Bintulu District.[30] Both the Bintulu Resident and District Offices are located inside Wisma Residen, Jalan Pisang Keling, Bintulu town.[44][45]


Bintulu town is located near the mouth of Kemena River.[46] Bintulu area is mostly consisted of geological formation from Pleistocene period in the coastal area which contains silt, clay, and gravel. Geological formation from Oligocene period is found in the inland area which contains limestone, slitstone, and sandstone. The soil is generally soft.[47]


There are two monsoon seasons in the area namely Northeast moonsoon (November to March) and Southwest moonsoon (May to September). The calm period between these two moonsoons is known as transitional period. In the coastal region, maximum rainfall will occur in the month of January while minimal rainfall will occur from the month of June to August. Rainfall is more evenly distributed in the inland areas. The annual rainfall of Bintulu region is about 3,750 mm annually. The mean daily hours of sunshine at Bintulu is about 5.0 to 5.5 hours. Bintulu receives on average 14 to 15 mJ/m2 of radiation throughout the year. Bintulu relative humidity is generally 85%.[47]

Climate data for Bintulu (1961-1990)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 29.5
Daily mean °C (°F) 25.9
Average low °C (°F) 23.1
Average precipitation mm (inches) 445.8
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm) 19 14 15 15 13 12 14 15 16 18 20 21 192
Mean monthly sunshine hours 142.1 151.0 178.1 192.9 204.3 201.3 203.5 186.7 171.2 171.2 164.8 163.6 2,130.7
Source: NOAA (sun, 1961–1990)[48]


An Iban longhouse near Setiam, Kuala Tatau-Bintulu road

The growth of Bintulu population is shown below:

Year 1960 1970 1980 1991 2000 2010
5,000[23] 4,663[49] 42,812[49] 51,862[49] 102,671[49] 114,058[5]


According to 2010 Malaysian census, the town population is 114,058. Indigenous people accounted for the largest proportion of the town population (61.2%, 69,782), followed by Chinese (25.0%, 28,512), Non-Malaysians (13.1%, 14,939), and Indians (0.28%, 319). Among the indigenous groups, there are Iban (32,992), Malay (14,945), Melanau (14,179), Bidayuh (1,598), and other indigenous tribes (6,068).[5] According to government sources, there are 229 Iban longhouses in Bintulu District. The Ibans moved into Kemena and Tatau basins in mid-19th and early 20th century with the permission of Brooke government. Other indigenous tribes that form the minority are Kayan, Kenyah, and Punan. The Chinese in Bintulu mainly composed of dialect groups such as Hakka, Fuzhou, and Teochews. The Chinese has been living in the Tatau town since the Bruneian Empire era. Later Fuzhou Chinese from Sibu moved in, dominating the timber and plantation businesses in Bintulu.[50] There is also a large number of foreigners working here. Most of them come from Britain, Australia, Netherlands, Germany, South Africa, New Zealand, Japan, China, United States, and Indonesia.[51]


While Malay language is the official language of Sarawak, English language is widely spoken here. Local ethnic languages and Chinese dialects are spoken by respective ethnic groups. Mandarin is also spoken by ethnic Chinese in Bintulu.[51] Bintulu language is spoken by communities living along the Kemena river,[52] totaling 4,200 native speakers. These speakers are now recognised as part of "Melanau" ethnic group, where their main language is Malay. Bintulu language is now classified as one of the endangered languages in Sarawak because of isolated usage of such language in a small community.[53][54]


Majority of the Bintulu population are Christians, followed by Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism.[51] Among the notable places of worships in Bintulu are: Bintulu Mosque (Masjid Assyakirin),[55] Masjid Jepak, Tua Pek Kong Temple,[56] Eng Kwang Methodist Church,[57] and St Thomas church.[58]


Tamu Bintulu, the main market of Bintulu town.
The streetscape along Jalan Abang Galau in Bintulu near the Tamu Bintulu market.
Downtown Bintulu, at the heart of the commercial district.

Bintulu is a major industrial centre. Its port area in Kidurong, which is located to the east of the main town hosts the Petronas Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) Complex, currently the world’s largest liquefied natural gas production facility on a single site, with an annual production of 23 million tonnes.[citation needed]

The role of the primary sector to the economy of Bintulu has greatly diminished and has been replaced by the secondary and tertiary sector. Bintulu is also equipped with several hotels that are able to cater to the needs of the town's burgeoning business communities. Furthermore, a more robust growth is anticipated in the future due to the Bintulu's position as the main urban focus for the ambitious multi-billion dollar Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE).[59][60][61]

The Bintulu Division has been designated a Planted Forests Zone (PFZ) by Sarawak state government since 1998. As of 30 June 2011, a total of 124,618 hectares (1246.18 km2 of of the area has been planted with Acacia trees.[62] Other trees that are planned to be planted are Kelampayan, engkabang, Durian, Batai, Eucalyptus, and rubber trees.[63] Sarawak Planted Fores Sdn Bhd,[64] a company wholly owned by the Sarawak state government has been granted license to replant forests for 60 years. However, the company has been suffering financial losses from 2009 to 2011.[65]

Bintulu has a number of industries. A significant portion of its industrial activities takes place in Tanjung Kidurong Industrial Area including:

Malaysia Liquefied Natural Gas (MLNG) plantsThere are 3 liquefied natural gas (LNG) plants in Bintulu: MLNG, MLNG Dua and MLNG Tiga. Petronas, the national oil corporation, owns majority interests in these plants.[66][67]

Asean Bintulu Fertiliser (ABF) plant The Asean Bintulu Fertiliser (ABF) plant is a joint venture by five Asean countries namely Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, and Singapore. It produces anhydrous ammonia and granular urea, and is one of the largest urea plants in Asia.[68]

Shell Middle Distillate Synthesis plant The world's first commercial gas to liquids (GTL) plant—the Shell Middle Distillate Synthesis (SMDS) plant—started manufacturing operations in May 1993.[69] The SMDS technology converts natural gas into high quality synthetic fuel, waxes and speciality products that are paraffinic, colourless and odourless. Shell MDS (Malaysia) supplied the GTL fuel in the jet fuel mix used in one of the jet engine of the Airbus A380 during its test flight on alternative fuel on 1 February 2008.[70][71]


Bintulu is accessible by air and road. The completion of the Pan Borneo Highway[72] has connected Bintulu by road to other major towns in Sarawak. Bintulu Airport is located 11 km south west of the town and is equipped to handle aircraft up to the size of a Boeing 747.

The new, modern Bintulu Airport is much bigger than the old airport. Malaysia Airlines (including its subsidiary MASwings) and AirAsia are the only airlines that fly to Bintulu.[73] Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia operates daily flights to various destinations in the country which include Kuching, Sibu, Miri, Kota Kinabalu and Kuala Lumpur.

Bintulu is well-connected to other major urban centres in Sarawak by the Pan-Borneo Highway. The express bus services provide comfortable and cheap means of transportation all of the major towns in Sarawak. The Medan Jaya Bus Station is the Bintulu's single centre for the intercity bus services.[74] Bintulu is also served by the comfortable intracity buses whose routes serve a significant portion of the town area.


The UPM Bintulu Sarawak Campus main Library
SMK Kidurong, Bintulu (2006)

Bintulu is home to one of Malaysia's public universities - the Universiti Putra Malaysia,[75] Bintulu Campus. The campus was reopened in November 2001 based on the third objective of UPM's 2001–2010 planning strategy, which is to upgrade UPM's ability as an internationally acclaimed Centre of Study, Agricultural and Biosource Services.

UPM Bintulu Sarawak Campus is situated 13 kilometers from Bintulu Town, and is surrounded by a lush environment rich in flora and fauna, and this natural abundance is fully utilised to affirm UPM's mission to further explore the fields in agriculture and biosource. This campus covers an area of 715.16 hectares and will be able to accommodate up to 5000 students by the year 2010.

For primary and secondary education, just as any other towns in Malaysia, Bintulu has 'Sekolah Kebangsaan' (SK) [National type schools], Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan (SMK) [National Secondary School], Chinese Schools and several International Schools.

There are other National Secondary School, i.e. SMK Bandar Bintulu, SMK Kidurong, SMK Baru Bintulu, SMK Assyakirin, SMK Sebauh (Sebauh Division) & SMK Tatau (Tatau Division). SM Kai Dee (Kai Dee School)[76] is a private Chinese school in Bintulu & located at Nyabau Road. Kidurong International School[77] [78][79][80][81] is located in Kidurong.

A Technical School of the Education Department[82] is found on a 20-hectare site, about 15 kilometres from the Bintulu Town and near to the industrial projects at Tanjung Kidurong. Built at a cost of RM15 million and completed in 1982, the school has at present 527 students pursuing various courses at the school. The school has a maximum capacity of 900 students and an annual intake of 280 students.

Bintulu was also home to Sarawak's first and only flying academy.[citation needed] Gulf Golden International Flying Academy (GGIFA) was one of only two flying academies in Malaysia which had college status (out of a total of 7 flying academies). This has since closed in 2012 due to financial difficulties.

National Parks[edit]


New World Suites, the largest Mall in Bintulu
Imperial Suites Bintulu at Tanjong Batu (Coast of Rocks)
Taman Tumbina (Tumbina Park) in Bintulu

There are several hotels and a trend of mushrooming illegal budget hotels in Bintulu.

Shopping Malls[edit]

There are several new coming up shopping malls in Bintulu. Parkcity Mall is the most crowded shopping mall in Bintulu currently which the other one is City Point. There are several new coming up shopping malls in next 3–5 years. Such as Times Square Bintulu, Commerce Square, Paragon Street Mall, Town Square, Bintulu City Mall, Boulevard Shopping Mall & The Spring Bintulu.


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  52. ^ Blust, Robert A. (October 1973). "The origins of Bintulu 6, d1". Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies (Cambridge University Press) 36 (3): 603–620. doi:10.1017/S0041977X00119871. Retrieved 27 June 2015. 
  53. ^ "Bintulu-Language metadata description". endangered Endangered Languages Project. Archived from the original on 27 June 2015. Retrieved 27 June 2015. 
  54. ^ Lewis, M. Paul; Gary F, Simons; Charles D., Fanning (2015). "Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Eighteenth edition - Bintulu - A language of Malaysia". SIL International. Archived from the original on 26 June 2015. Retrieved 27 June 2015. 
  55. ^ "Sarawak worship places - Bintulu". Archived from the original on 5 April 2015. Retrieved 27 June 2015. 
  56. ^ Yussop, Yunus (29 January 2012). "A proud landmark in Bintulu". The Borneo Post. Archived from the original on 5 February 2012. Retrieved 27 June 2015. 
  57. ^ "恩光堂 Eng Kwang Methodist Church". Archived from the original on 27 June 2015. Retrieved 27 June 2015. 
  58. ^ "Place of Worship in Bintulu". Archived from the original on 27 June 2015. Retrieved 27 June 2015. 
  59. ^ Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy
  60. ^ SCORE set to make Sarawak a powerhouse of growth TheStar Online
  61. ^ RM110 billion investments for SCORE TheStar Online
  62. ^ "PERKASA - Sarawak Timber Indsutry Development Corporation (April-June 2011 newsletter)" (PDF). Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corporation (STIDC). Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 June 2015. Retrieved 18 June 2015. The designation of Bintulu Division as the Planted Forest Zone (PFZ) manifests the government’s commitment in realising its objective to establish one million hectares of planted forests by 2020. 
  63. ^ Cheng, Lian; Yap, Joanna (20 July 2012). "‘Matured Acacia unharvested due to absence of pulp mill’". The Borneo Post. Archived from the original on 18 June 2015. Retrieved 18 June 2015. 
  64. ^ "Sarawak Planted Forest Sdn Bhd". Archived from the original on 24 April 2015. Retrieved 18 June 2015. 
  65. ^ "A-G gives thumbs down to loss-making state-owned company". The Star (Malaysia). 4 December 2013. Archived from the original on 18 June 2015. Retrieved 18 June 2015. 
  66. ^ Malaysia Liquefied Natural Gas plants, one of the gigantic projects in Bintulu
  67. ^ MLNG Shell's interest in MLNG
  68. ^ Asean Bintulu Fertiliser plant
  69. ^ Shell MDS Plant, one of the gigantic projects in Bintulu
  70. ^ Airbus A380 test flight on GTL fuel
  71. ^ A380 makes test flight on alternative fuel on REUTERS
  72. ^ Pan Borneo Highway
  73. ^ Bintulu Airport at Malaysia Airports
  74. ^ Medan Jaya Bus Station at
  75. ^ Universiti Putra Malaysia
  76. ^ SM Kai Dee SM Kai Dee website
  77. ^ Kidurong International School Website
  78. ^ Medan Jaya Bus Station at
  79. ^ Kidurong International School Handbook
  80. ^ Kidurong International School in Malaysia School Finder
  81. ^ Kidurong International School in The Outpost Network
  82. ^ Technical School of the Education Department

External links[edit]