Do you keep getting the message "There's no trip available" when you try to book the ferry? In all likelihood, it's because the schedule for your dates hasn't been completed yet. This page clarifies the reasons behind this.

Pas de Deux

Since as far back as we can remember, the waters around Mersing have been a bit fickle. This applies particularly around the mouth of the Mersing River, especially whilst the ferry is en route to Tioman or on its way back into the harbour. In a nutshell, the Mersing River delta is rather shallow and can at certain tidal levels be too low for the Tioman ferry to pass through.

This is the main reason Tioman's ferry schedule isn't fixed the way most other ferry routes are, both in Malaysia and around the world. By sheer necessity, ferry times in Malaysia need to track the area's high water mark. This way, there's adequate clearance below.

But why are the ferry times then not published for the entire year ahead, especially since tidal tables can forecast sea water levels very accurately? This is because the ferry times around Mersing aren't just decided by the water level alone on any given day. The weather and the availability of a particular ferry vessel also play a part.

For instance, when the weather pattern for the weeks ahead suggest a windier spell than usual, then it's fair to assume rougher seas than usual as well. More waves, in turn, mean a smaller margin for clearance below the ferry as it traverses the river mouth. As such, erring on the side of caution is preferred for that period. In practice, this could mean fewer daily crossings for that particular period.

But of course, the weather can't be forecast a year in advance...

Size Matters

Meanwhile, the choice of vessel size, and thus its passenger capacity, also comes into play, since a smaller vessel is able to sail when the water level is too low for a larger vessel. Clearly though, that smaller vessel has to be available to begin with in order to be allocated for service that day. Technical issues are unpredictable and can happen at any time after all.

In view of above, it should be a little clearer why ferry schedules for the Mersing area can't be published for the entire year. Basically, at least for the moment, this delicate dance between Logistics and Mother Nature is the most workable solution.

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