RUSHING… Hundreds of holiday makers rushing to the ferry of Putrajaya 1 to the mainland of Sabah for Pesta Kaamatan, Hari Gawai and Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations beginning today.

LABUAN: Traffic is congested along the Labuan Ferry Terminal road from morning to late evening as the long holiday begins today.

The journeys to Labuan customs check point takes longer than they normally would because of the high number of motorists on the roads.

The ferry operator Labuan Mainland Link Sdn Bhd, operating three ferries of Kimanis 1, Purajaya 1 and Goodwill Star are providing six trips with one extra service, while Juta Bonus Sdn Bhd operating the sole ferry of Galaxy with two trips daily ahead of the Pesta Kaamatan, Hari Gawai and Hari Raya Aidilfitri.

Unlike in previous years, hundreds of holiday makers with vehicles were stranded and unable to celebrate Hari Raya with their families in the mainland Sabah and Sarawak due to limited ferries trips.

Ferry operators told Bernama they would provide extra service depending on the needs of travellers.

Ferry Kimanis 1 has the capacity of loading 250 passengers and 50 vehicles, Putrajaya 1 has the capacity of 400 passengers with around 80 units of vehicles and the largest ferry Goodwill Star is able to load slightly more than 400 passengers with 100 vehicles on any one trip.

BEELINE…The crowd at the Labuan Ferry Terminal ticketing counter queuing up for last minute ticket to the mainland of Sabah via ferry Putrajaya 1 for Pesta Kaamatan, Hari Gawai and Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations beginning today.

Labuan police chief Supt. Muhamad Farid Ahmad has warned people to be vigilant when driving, saying “we want to remind everybody on the roads today to be patient and make a concerted effort to keep each other safe.”

“The traffic is likely to be heavy during the week too as the holiday makers begin to take a long break for Hari Raya…please don’t forget to fill

‘Balik Kampung’ form at the nearest police station,” Farid said.

Sabah Road Safety Department director Janet David @ Nurethelina Janet Abdullah said said routes in and out of Menumbok Ferry Terminal  heading towards the Beaufort –  Kota Kinabalu are particularly overloaded.

“Traffic heading into Kota Kinabalu from Menumbok will busier than usual with people returning to the mainland from Labuan for Sabah’s largest ethnic annual celebration of Pesta Kaamatan today and tomorrow, Hari Gawai June 1 and 2 and Hari Raya Aidilfitri next week,” she said.

Both Farid and Janet Police reminded motorists to stay focused during their long trips home today and not become complacent.

“If you’re tired, distracted, or feeling frustrated pull over and take a break, if your passengers fall asleep, it is a good sign you need a rest too,” they said.

Augustine Desmond, 50, an oil and gas worker, said he and his family would return home to Keningau, Sabah for Pesta Kaamatan every year without fail.

“I will always ensure I get the ticket to return home ahead of Pesta Kaamatan, as celebrate Kamaatan in our home town is always cheerful,” he said.

With Hari Gawai Dayak, just around the corner, most Sarawakians who observe the celebration and work and live in Labuan areas will once again make the trip back to their respective villages.

Mela Claire who is from Kapit Sarawak and is currently studying in University Malaysia Sabah Labuan International Campus, said she was excited to finally return to his village and visit his parents during Hari Gawai.

Although she does return home once in a while during the year, she opined the feeling of going back to his village on a normal day when there is no festive celebration is not the same as going back for Hari Gawai.

Nuraini Jaafar, 45, government servant said she and her family were able to return home to Putatan, Sabah for Hari Raya this year, as she purchased ferry ticket two month in advance before the celebration.

“Last year’s Hari Raya was regret and sad to us, I and husband with our five children had to celebrate the Hari Raya in Labuan away from our parents, this year we planned earlier our journey home,” she said when met at the ferry terminal.

Meanwhile, Malaysia Airport Berhad (MAB) Labuan expects thousands travellers would head Miri, Sarawak and Kuala Lumpur beginning this weekend.

“The increase in the number of passengers traveling via Labuan Airport either to Miri or Kuala Lumpur had begun early this week,” its manager Amat Madin said when contacted.

He said the Labuan airport is expecting the number of outgoing and incoming passengers to soar by about 14.2 per cent (from 3, 500 passengers to 4, 000 daily) over the long holiday.

“From May 20 to 25, Labuan airport has recorded 10, 266 inflow and outflow passengers and continue to soar to 14, 045 from May 26 to 29.

“It will be busy weekend, with thousands taking advantage of the long weekend to head off the mainland of Miri and Peninsular,” Amat said.

“With the roads predicted to be extremely busy, holidaymakers should make sure that they leave plenty of time to get to the ferry terminal and airport of departure, the authorities said.