IT was built in 1900 to support shipping activities and continues to play that role.

The only thing that has changed is its name. Originally called Port Swettenham, it was changed to Port Klang in 1972.

Almost every major economic activity here is linked to port-related businesses. You will find shipping agents, freight forwarders, marine surveyors and engineers, and transport operators all over Klang. Clusters of factories, warehouses and jetties make up much of the landscape of this coastal town.

The port itself houses three terminals — South Port, North Port and West Port. South Port is located within the town, North Port is about 10km from the town centre and Westport is located on Pulau Indah, some 20km away.

South Port, which handles domestic and regional cargo vessels, was destroyed by a ferocious fire and explosions in the wee hours of June 5, 1980. The town was crippled for months and it looked like a war zone, with collapsed houses, shattered windows and roofs, and damaged vehicles.

Asa Niaga Harbour City (ANHC), the regional passenger ferry terminal, is located just outside the South Port area. A four-hour ferry ride from here will get you across to the ports of Dumai and Tanjung Balai in Sumatra, Indonesia.

The ANHC building which opened in 2011 also houses the customs, immigration and quarantine complex, restaurants and shops.

The Pulau Ketam Public Jetty, next to this complex, provides ferry services between the mainland and the island. Also in the vicinity, in Jalan Limbungan, is the Royal Selangor Yacht Club, a popular hangout for boating and sailing enthusiasts.

In Pulau Indah, you will find well-planned modern structures such as the Port Klang Cruise Centre (PKCC). This international cruise terminal provides for the likes of some of the world’s biggest cruise operators such as the Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise Lines and Star Cruises.

Sadly, even though the terminal is equipped with state-of-the-art facilities and amenities, it is grossly under used.

Hopefully, the government’s plans to boost cruise tourism under the Economic Transformation Plan, will see more cruise passengers coming our way via PKCC.

Many people think there is nothing much for travellers to do here but that’s only because the town’s distinctive charms have not been given the right boost.

Ask the locals about seafood restaurants and they will proudly point you to Bagan Hailam in North Port, Pandamaran, Teluk Gong and Pulau Ketam, where much of the town’s fresh catch comes from.

There is also the esplanade in Tanjong Harapan, which lies between South Port and North Port, and the pristine public marina in Pulau Indah for those who are into sailing and yachting.

However, before putting Port Klang on the tourism map, we need to think of giving it a facelift, one that is worthy of a major port city.

Prior to moving to this town in the 1990s, my only knowledge of it was from the geography textbooks and I imagined it to be a city with a modern look. After all, this town is home to the country’s premier port.

I was disappointed when I saw it for the first time and, over the years, that disillusionment had continued.

Port cities around the world benefit from the growth of their ports but the town of Port Klang doesn’t seem to have that advantage.

While the port which it supports has grown by leaps and bounds to become the the country’s main port and the 12 busiest container port in the world, the town is full of dilapidated prewar buildings, rickety burned-out structures, clogged drains and rubbish that has piled up overnight along roads and alleyways.

Development is mostly haphazard. A case in point is the flyover traversing the town centre (connecting North Port and West Port) which stretches just a couple of metres away from the shoplots located in the narrow Jalan Kem below. Standing on the second floor of one of these buildings will give you a very close-up view of the concrete ramp. It’s a visual blight.

Currently, another flyover is being built over a railway crossing to enable smooth traffic flow between the town and North Port. To facilitate the construction, several road junctions in Jalan Kem, Persiaran Raja Muda Musa, Persiaran Tengku Badar and Jalan Raja Lumu are closed and the traffic has been diverted to other routes.

Motorists now not only have to take longer routes to their destinations but also face the unavoidable traffic congestion daily. Traffic practically comes to a standstill during peak hours. The current status of the town can only be described as mess and disorder!

Read more: Port Klang has to adjust its sails – Northern – New Straits Times