Powering up an island resort

One of Pulau Tioman's beaches.

ROMPIN - Traversing the forests, hills and the sea off Pulau Tioman, Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) technicians work to install kilometres of electric cables on the resort island.

A number of people are working behind the scenes to make sure broken down cables get fixed so the 3,440 residents of Pulau Tioman can enjoy power supply.

TNB senior technician Alias Abdullah, 58, said this included moving drums of cable lines weighing three tonnes each by sea or land.

"Our work here depends a lot on the weather condition. If there are big waves, we cannot go by sea and have to use the land route, which is often hilly and forested terrain. It can get difficult but we are lucky there are at least no wild animals here," he said in an interview.

Once, Alias had to carry an injured teammate down a hill after a utility pole they were installing fell onto them, severing the man's finger.

"I brought him down from the hill. Then I climbed up again to get sufficient mobile phone signal to call in a boat. Luckily, the doctors managed to reattach his finger," he said.

Alias and his team were installing cable lines spanning 3.5km from Kampung Labir to Kampung Nipah as part of TNB's upgrading projects on Tioman, costing RM9.7 million (S$3.78 million). It is expected to be completed next month.

The projects include the upgrading of the Tekek power station switchgear, the replacing of diesel pipes and repair of buildings, drains and fences.

Electricity supply is generated by diesel at a power station in Kampung Tekek and then channelled to the 554 domestic and 1,142 commercial customers on the island.

Pahang TNB general manager Datuk Sharuddin Mohd Simin said that due to the importance of tourism activities on the island, it was vital for the company to provide reliable power supply.

"The operating cost to supply electricity to the island is around RM11 million per year but our annual sale is only half of the amount.

"Although we are operating without any profit here, it is still our responsibility to ensure the residents of the island have comfort," he said.

Alias concurred, saying that he was happy with his challenging job because he was providing a service to the villagers.

"It is not about the salary. I spend two weeks working on Tioman every month because I am performing a service. I am happy that the residents have lights at night due to our efforts," he said.

His fellow technician Bakri Ahmad, 40, echoed similar sentiments, saying that he was proud of the work he was doing.

"Our work here is done manually without machines. If we get a report of power outage, we must fix it within three hours.

"This can be difficult as we sometimes have to walk half a day just to reach the location but still, we have our obligations," he said.

Bakri said he took pride in knowing that he and his teammates had laid all the electric posts and cables across the island.

"Whenever I see all these power cables overhead, I tell myself these are all the fruits of my labour for the sake of the villagers here," he said.