Swettenham Pier

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Swettenham Pier
Swettenham Pier Cruise Terminal 1.jpg
CarriesCruise vessels
SpansPenang Strait
LocaleSeal of George Town.svg George Town, Penang
Maintained byPenang Port Commission
ConstructionCoude, Sons & Matthews
OwnerPenang Port Commission
Total length400 m (1,300 ft)[1]
Opening date1904; 115 years ago (1904)
Coordinates5°25′08″N 100°20′47″E / 5.418933°N 100.346329°E / 5.418933; 100.346329Coordinates: 5°25′08″N 100°20′47″E / 5.418933°N 100.346329°E / 5.418933; 100.346329
Swettenham Pier is located in central George Town, Penang
Swettenham Pier
Swettenham Pier
Location within George Town's UNESCO World Heritage Site (purple)
Criteriaii, iii, iv
Designated2008 (32nd session)
Reference no.1223

Swettenham Pier is a pier within the city of George Town in Penang, Malaysia. Established in 1904, it is the busiest port-of-call in Malaysia for cruise shipping.[2][3] The pier plays a vital role as a major entry point for tourists into Penang, aside from the Penang International Airport and land connections.[4][5]

Other than cruise shipping, Swettenham Pier, located at Weld Quay, has hosted warships as well. Navy ships from several nations, including Singapore, Thailand and the United States, have berthed at the pier in the past.[6][7][8]


Japanese submarine I-10 at Swettenham Pier in 1942
Swettenham Pier Cruise Terminal building, completed in 2009, contains immigration clearance facilities.
SuperStar Libra cruise ship at Swettenham Pier

Towards the end of the 19th century, as maritime traffic into the Port of Penang continued to increase and railway lines in the Malay Peninsula were being built, the expansion of the Port of Penang became crucial.[2] The construction of Swettenham Pier, undertaken by engineers Coude, Sons and Matthews, commenced in 1901. Upon its completion in 1904, the T-shaped pier provided 600 ft (180 m) of wharfage.

Originally, the pier was known as the 'Iron Pier'. It was subsequently renamed Swettenham Pier, in honour of Frank Swettenham, the then Governor of the Straits Settlements.

Swettenham Pier's initial capacity proved insufficient. In 1911, the pier was extended by 345 ft (105 m) to the north and 255 ft (78 m) to the south, bringing the overall length of the pier to 1,200 ft (370 m).[2]

Between 1942 and 1944, at the height of World War II, the pier was used as a submarine base by the Japanese, German and Italian navies.[9][10][11]

Up until the late 1960s, steamers and other cargo vessels with a draft of up to 27 ft (8.2 m) used to dock at Swettenham Pier. The pier's heyday was abruptly ended, however, with the revocation of George Town's free port status by the Malaysian federal government in 1969.[12][13][14][15]

In the early 2000s, Swettenham Pier was upgraded into a cruise shipping terminal. The Swettenham Pier Cruise Terminal, with a new three-storey building and an aerobridge, was completed in 2009.[1][16] George Town's cruise tourism industry has been booming ever since, with Swettenham Pier soon attracting cruise ships of increasing size, such as the RMS Queen Mary 2.[17] In 2017, Swettenham Pier overtook Port Klang as the busiest cruise shipping harbour in Malaysia.[3]

Plans have also been drawn up for the expansion of Swettenham Pier in the near future to accommodate larger cruise ships.[18][19]

Operational statistics[edit]

Year Number of vessels Number of passengers (millions)
2013 2,094[20] 1.29[16]
2014 2,201[20] 1.22[20]
2015 2,308[20] 1.16[20]
2016 N/A 1.02[21]
2017[22] N/A 1.35[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Malaysia: A Preferred Cruise Destination" (PDF). Tourism Malaysia.
  2. ^ a b c Langdon, Marcus (2014). George Town's Historic Commercial and Civic Precints. Penang: George Town World Heritage Incorporated.
  3. ^ a b "Swettenham Pier surpasses Port Klang as top port of call for cruise ships". www.thesundaily.my. Retrieved 2017-12-21.
  4. ^ "Penang poised to register record year in tourism numbers". www.thesundaily.my. Retrieved 2017-12-21.
  5. ^ Rosalind Chua, Richard Ho, Ong Wooi Leng (April 2010). "Taking tourism to the next level". Penang Monthly. Retrieved 2017-12-21.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ "Newspaper Article - S'pore gunboats call at Penang". eresources.nlb.gov.sg. Retrieved 18 October 2016.
  7. ^ II, Administrator. "Royal Thai Navy's Visit to Penang". www.visitpenang.gov.my. Retrieved 18 October 2016.
  8. ^ "US Navy ship calls at Penang - Community | The Star Online". www.thestar.com.my. Retrieved 18 October 2016.
  9. ^ "Nazi U-boat sunk during Second World War is discovered off Indonesia". Mail Online. Retrieved 15 October 2016.
  10. ^ "World War II: Yanagi Missions -- Japan's Underwater Convoys | HistoryNet". www.historynet.com. Retrieved 15 October 2016.
  11. ^ Borsa, Arnaldo. "Italian Royal Navy in World War Two: Italian surface units in Far East". www.icsm.it. Retrieved 15 October 2016.
  12. ^ Daniel Goh, P. S. (2014). "Between History and Heritage: Post-Colonialism, Globalisation, and the Remaking of Malacca, Penang and Singapore" (PDF). Trans-Regional and -National Studies of Southeast Asia. 2.
  13. ^ Christie, Clive (1998). A Modern History of Southeast Asia: Decolonization, Nationalism and Separatism. I.B.Tauris. ISBN 978-1-86064-354-5.
  14. ^ Evelyn Teh (July 2016). "Where the Sea Meets the City is Where the World Meets Penang". Penang Monthly. Retrieved 2017-11-30.
  15. ^ "The man behind Penang's economic transformation". The Star. Retrieved 2017-11-30.
  16. ^ a b "Swettenham Pier Cruise Terminal". Port of Penang.
  17. ^ Filmer, Andrea (1 October 2015). "Is Penang's tourism on the right track?". Penang Monthly. Retrieved 17 October 2016.
  18. ^ Opalyn Mok (2017-05-05). "Royal Caribbean mulls Penang as home port after pier expansion". Malay Mail. Retrieved 2017-05-27.
  19. ^ "More voyages to Penang this year - Community | The Star Online". www.thestar.com.my. Retrieved 2017-05-27.
  20. ^ a b c d e "Annual Report 2015" (PDF). Penang Port Commission.
  21. ^ "Pier expansion crucial for Penang - Views | The Star Online". www.thestar.com.my. Retrieved 2017-12-21.
  22. ^ Up to 15 December 2017
  23. ^ "More liners to visit Penang - Nation | The Star Online". www.thestar.com.my. Retrieved 2017-12-21.

External links[edit]