Although it is not necessarily a tourist attraction itself, many visitors to Penang find themselves visiting Swettenham Pier as a way to get to other places to visit in Malaysia. That is because this pier is one of the three large ports on the islands, with the other two being Pengkalan Raja Tun Uda and Tanjong City Marina. As such, it is where most cruises passing through Georgetown, or other areas of Penang, will stop, giving passengers the chance to find things to do in Penang for a short amount of time. Following its recent renovations, the name of Swettenham Pier officially became Swettenham Pier Cruise Terminal, although many people still refer to it with the shortened form.
The main berth in Swettenham Pier can handle even the largest cruise ships as it measures 400 meters long and is 12 meters deep. There are also two inner berths, one of which can fit a 160 meter ship (with a water depth of 6.5 meters) and the other can fit a 100 meter ship (5.5 meters deep). These smaller berths are constantly used for smaller vessels as well, such as boats, ships, and smaller cruises to other nearby interesting places in Malaysia.
As a modern facility, passengers don’t have to wait in the sun for their ships as there is a 15,005 square meter, three-storey terminal building. The terminal is large enough to handle even cruises with 2,000 passengers and offers eating, shopping, and transportation.
Swettenham Pier has been one of the places to visit in Penang for over a century as the original pier was established back in 1903, when the ports were most active. It was named for Frank Athelstane Swettenham, who was the very first Resident General for the Federated Malay States, from 1896 to 1901. Recent renovations, which finished in 2010, saw the old Swettenham Pier expanding to become the current Swettenham Pier Cruise Terminal, making it easier for cruise ships to stop in Penang.
As one of the major ports in Penang, it is no surprise that most cruises pass through Swettenham Pier. In fact, many well-known ships and cruise liners have passed through the port since its renovation including the Aegean Odyssey, SS Voyager, and several Star Cruise liners, including SuperStar Libra and SuperStar Virgo.
Swettenham Pier also offers several ferries to nearby areas. To travel to the mainland, you will need to go to George Town Weld Quay for a ferry or cross Penang Bridge. You can, however, take a ferry from Swettenham Pier going to Langkawi, Kedah (which is a resort island further north) or to Pulau Payar Marine Park for snokeling and scuba diving. There is also a casino boat that leaves from Swettenham Pier in the evenings and travels to international waters as gambling is not allowed in Malaysia.
Swettenham Pier is the perfect launching spot to visit tourist attractions in Malaysia, whether on a cruise, ferry, or other boat. The Pier is located along George Town’s northeastern tip. There is no admission fee to enter the pier terminal or view the activity in the pier and there are almost always ships present.
During your visit to Swettenham Pier, be respectful of the water and wildlife. Leave the pier and surrounding area how you find it as this will help preserve it, letting future visitors and locals continue to use the pier and cruise terminal.