PENGERANG, Johor - A local oil and gas company wants to transform this south-eastern part of Johor into the Rotterdam of Asia within 20 years.
Rotterdam, the second largest city in the Netherlands and one of the world's busiest ports, has reputedly the biggest petroleum terminal in the world.
In an area best known for its lobster and seafood dishes, work is being carried out on 344ha of reclaimed land to house a huge deepwater pertroleum terminal.
"Once ready, the RM5 billion (S$2 billion) terminal can store up to five million cubic metres of oil," said Pengerang Independent Deepwater Terminal Sdn Bhd chairman Ngau Boon Keat.
With 40 years' experience in the oil and gas sector, Ngau said Pengerang was ideal for the project as it is located right in the heart of shipping routes to the Middle East and China.
"We aim to make Pengerang the Rotterdam of Asia as the Dutch port is known throughout the world for having the largest petroleum terminal," he said on Friday.
The project will be built in four phases, with the first phase of reclamation work expected to be completed next year.
Part of the terminal is expected to be ready by the first quarter of 2014.
"The terminal is on track," said Ngau, who is executive chairman of the Dialog Group, which is a partner in the project along with the Johor Government and Royal Vopak NV, a Dutch company dealing in oil and natural gas-related products.
Ngau said the deepwater petroleum terminal would create more than 5,000 jobs, adding that Malaysians working overseas in the oil and gas sectors were expected to return to work here.
He said there were Malaysian skilled workers and experts working in the sector in the Middle East and Singapore.
"This is a shame. Many Malaysians are working in Singapore's refinery in Jurong," he said.
He recalled that when he first obtained his Bachelor's Degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand in the 70s, it was hard for him to get a job in Malaysia in the oil and gas sector.
"I went for a walk-in interview at Mobil Singapore Pte Ltd, where I was offered a job as a refinery engineer. I worked for five years from 1975 in Petronas, when it first started.
"Malaysia has the skilled workers and the source for natural oil. I believe with this terminal, the industry can go much further and contribute significantly to our economy," he said.
Johor Oil and Gas, a corporation under the Mentri Besar's office, said the state government was assessing the value of the houses and land of those affected by the project.