Penang is justly famed among cruisers for its medical services, superb food and provisions, developed retail sector, and its multicultural and friendly population. Services catering specifically to cruisers are sparse, but many services are available in the well developed industrial and commercial environment for those who seek them.
On 7 July 2008, George Town, Penang, was, together with Malacca, formally inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is officially recognized as having a unique architectural and cultural townscape without parallel anywhere in East and Southeast Asia
For full details on clearance into and out of Malaysia see Malaysia Formalities.
If you are already cleared into Malaysia, the standard procedure is to check in with Jabatan Laut [Marine Department of the Ministry of Transport - Customs/Harbourmaster] and to check out with Jabatan Laut and Royal Malaysian Customs.
As of September 1, 2016, Jabatan Laut relocated to the Jabatan Laut Wilayah Utara building on Jalan Akuarium, Gelugor, Penang.
If you are coming or going internationally (e.g. direct to or from Singapore, Thailand or Indonesia), you also need to check in or out with Immigration. The relevant office operates 24 hours a day and is in the old Immigration Building at the corner of Lebuh Pantai and Lebuh Light; enter the building by the door marked ‘Bahagian Perkapalan’ [Shipping Division]. For visa extensions, visit the new Immigration Building across the channel, in Seberang Prai.
When checking in and out, carry ship’s papers, passports, crew lists, and forms including Port Clearances from previous Malaysian ports.
Remember, in Malaysia, you must carry your passport at all times. A photocopy does not satisfy the legal requirements.
Last updated October 2016.
With the closure of the Tanjong City Marina, obtaining a marina berth or safe anchorage in Penang can be difficult. In order not to miss all that Penang has to offer, many cruisers choose to leave their boat in Langkawi and visit Penang by ferry - staying in one of the many cheap but decent hotels in Georgetown.
If arriving from the south, you can travel the Western Channel (between Pulau Pinang and Pulau Jerjak) to the Seagate Anchorage or the Marina Batu Uban. Or use the Main Channel (under the Penang Bridge), to reach the Junk Anchorage.
Arriving from the north, the Junk Anchorage and E-Gate Anchorage are handy. Also the new Straits Quay Marina located on the NE end of Penang Island is now an option. Or you could continue along the Main Channel, under the bridge, and round Pulau Jerjak to the Western Channel and Seagate Anchorage or Marina Batu Uban.
The Tanjong City Marina in the heart of World Heritage Listed Georgetown has now closed due to heavy silting and poor repair. It may be still possible to leave your dinghy there if you anchor nearby in the Junk Anchorage, however the docks are pretty much all broken up now.
The Junk Anchorage, just south of the Tanjong City Marina, lies off the clan jetties (the New, Yeoh, Lee, Tan, Chew and Lim jetties) about 200 metres south of the car ferry terminal. Diesel fuel is usually available from a fuel barge nearby. The Junk Anchorage is exposed to weather from the north and east and there is plenty of debris fouling the bottom. Be sure to double check that your anchor is set and holding properly. It is safer here during Neap tides. At Spring tides the current can run at 3 - 4 knots and an adverse afternoon breeze of up to 20 knots can create a nasty "wind against tide" situation. It's necessary to check the tides when leaving your dinghy at the Chew Jetty.
The E-Gate anchorage lies at about 05º 22'N 100º19'E, after proceeding south down the Western Channel from the Junk Anchorage. Anchor offshore from either the E-Gate building (prominent cupola) or the blue-roofed building housing the Jabatan Laut headquarters for the northern region of peninsula Malaysia. Be alert to submarine cables and the associated no-anchoring area. The old marine police jetty here no longer exists as it's totally taken over by the extensive land reclamation and building works. Therefore there is no longer a refueling option here. A Tesco hypermarket and associated shops and food court are handy to this anchorage, however there is no jetty nearby and shore access is limited to a couple of hours either side of high water due to wide mud flats which brings you ashore next to a busy highway.
The Seagate Anchorage is in the Western Channel at about 05º19'N 100º18’.5E. Uncle Quah (Mr Quah Thye Hock, tel. 012 427 3992) supplies water sports services and rents moorings for a couple of ringgit a day. He is a good source of information and assistance. The sandy beach just south of the Seagate Anchorage has been used by cruisers for careening.
Some yachts have successfully anchored further south off Jerejak and managed to find shore access.
Marina Batu Uban, at about 05º21'.3N 100º18'.9E in the Western Channel, is a small (35 berths for vessels up to 12 metres) and unpretentious public marina operated by the Jabatan Laut (Marine Dept.). It tends to have very few available berths. The marina has no breakwater. Wind wave and wake from passing motor vessels have burst fenders on more than one occasion. Skippers are advised to make sure their mast is not aligned with their neighbour’s. This marina is not convenient for sightseeing and shopping being a 15 minute bike ride to Queensbay Shopping Mall (and buses). Anchoring off this marina in order to use it for dinghy access incurs a charge.
NOTE: The bridge in this area near the marina is NOT passable for yachts. It has an air height of approximately 6 metres at high tide.
Straits Quay Marina (photo courtesy of SY Totem) is located on the North East end of Penang Island. It's reported to have good facilities and be well managed. Plus, there is a big shopping mall and Tesco supermarket nearby. It has a very limited number of available berths for visitors so advance booking is essential. This marina does not have access to fuel, although this is available from barges offshore. Entry to the marina is a little tricky at low tide since the silt outside the marina moves around a fair bit: call ahead to get info on the latest recommended track in. Maintenance dredging of the approach channel and marina basin to -3m CD was completed in April 2013 so access for yachts with up to 3m draft is possible, although entering near HW is still advisable.
Last updated May 2015.