Ferry users get a pleasant sub-prise

PHOTO: AFP/Royal Australian Navy

BUTTERWORTH - The jaw-dropping sight of a jet black submarine crossing paths with ferries here turned a humdrum morning commute into an exciting ride for a few hundred ferry passengers.

The 77.42m-long Australian submarine had ferry commuters busy clicking on their mobile cameras and posting pictures on social media yesterday.

HMAS Sheean from Australia is here for the crewmen's holiday before they start a joint exercise with a Malaysian submarine later.

It rolled into Butterworth's deep-water wharf where tugboats nudged alongside it at 11.30am.

Since the news hit The Star Online yesterday, readers have called asking if they could go to the wharf for a closer look. The wharf, however, is off-limits to the public.

Submarine Commander Jason Cupples said the crew was here for a visit.

The Collins-class submarine will be involved in the joint exercise with Scorpene-class submarine KD Tunku Abdul Rahman in Kota Kinabalu on Oct 12 and 13.

"We have 60 crew members who want to experience the local cultures and food.

"The submarine will be here until Oct 2," Cupples said.

Retiree Ahmad Ishak, 57, heard about the submarine's arrival and brought his five-year-old grandson on a ferry ride just to get a closer view of the vessel.

"I've never seen a submarine before, although the Royal Malaysian Navy has two.

"It's truly an experience to see such top-secret military transport docked right here," he said when met on the ferry at the Sultan Abdul Halim Ferry Terminal yesterday.

Student Koh Zhi Zhang, 14, from SKM Hwa Lian in Temerloh, Pahang, said it was also his first time seeing a submarine.

"This is my first time in Penang and I'm so lucky to see it," he said.

In a statement, the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) said the Australian crew was also planning a courtesy call on the naval officer in Penang.

HMAS Sheean will return to Fleet Base West, Australia once the exercise concludes, the RMN spokesperson added.

The vessel is armed with guided surface-to-air missiles, sub-surface guided torpedoes and mines, and has a surface range of 11,500 nautical miles and a dived range of 400 nautical miles.