Miri Port Authority
'Commercial shipping' utilizing Miri as a port goes back to as early as when Miri was merely a fishing village. Being the site of the first discovery of oil in Borneo in 1910 quickened the business, pace and progress of Miri via the use of its port, establishing it to be an important and leading port for the majority of the 20th century in the region for oil and then timber industries.
Previously the Miri port was located in Miri river (near River Road), and this limits vessel sizes into the port due to the notorious sand bar and the shallow depth of the Miri River mouth. There was a need for Miri to have a port at least beyond eight metres deep, and thus the new port was chosen at a site upriver at Baram, about 30 kilometers from the original site, and has been operational since its completion in 1998.
The port with its futuristic building design has facilities that consisted of a 254-foot berth length with general cargo handling and container service, while stevedoring services is provided by private sector, and container handling is also provided by private contractor using conventional cargo handling equipment.
The port boasts four units of transit shed with floor area of over twenty-thousand square foot area and over a ten-thousand square foot of open storage area which is under constant surveillance with a security force.
The new port is not without its problems however, as even though the original specification required more than a depth of eight meters, the Baram River mouth can also reduce in depth to as low as only one meter deep during low tide in certain conditions, which meant that, once again, the bigger vessels were unable to dock at the facility without major upgrades or deepening of the river. The notorious shallow invisible sandbar monsters haunt the ship captains and threatens shipping to seemingly no end.
Miri Port Authority
Jalan Miri Port,
Kuala Baram Industrial Estate,
Phone: +6 085-609009
There were two Chinese provision dealers (one of whom, Towkay Kiah Huat, was the father of a future Kapitan China.) Their chief stock in trade was corned beef, tinned milk and much to the solace of those early expatriates, Key beer. Eggs were sold for 1/2 or 1 cent, bananas fetched 1 cent each, whilst the price of a chicken could leap from 15 cents to 25 cents, unless you were prepared to bargain with the 'punjut'. The only fresh meat was wild boar, buffalo, venison and pigeons.
There was no market, only a little hut where crowds waited daily for the arrival of the fishing boats. It was a cut-throat affair. As soon as the Customs Officer had weighed the fish, he had scarcely any time to put them down before the crowd rushed in to snatch anything they could lay their hands on, from a small shark to a good ikan bawal. In the ensuing scrimmage, hands often bled and fights broke out.
Communications were bad. For shipping, going over the bar with a good sea running was a dangerous and no assistance would have been forthcoming had an accident occurred. A life line was run the whole length of the 'perahu' (a small boat) in case it capsized. The rougher the sea, the quicker the transfer had to be made from ship to shore, the captain being always anxious to get under way as soon as possible.
If the whole maneuver appeared dangerous by day, it became infinitely more dangerous by night. Should the steamer appear after dark, that was the misfortune of the Miri dwellers. If they failed to disembark passengers, goods, and mail immediately, they might awake at dawn to see the vessel once again steaming away round Baram Point.
More often than not, the captain took the decision to bypass Miri. Homesick expatriates standing on the wharf eagerly awaiting their mail from home stood helplessly by as they watched it sail out of their reach.
Between September and March, Miri tended to be cut off. Supplies had to be stored - without the benefit of such modern luxuries as an ice plant. One of the major worries in setting up an oil camp was that during the monsoon season it might be impossible to obtain rice and other provisions for the increased population.
There was of course no telegraph system. For urgent messages, a special runner came from Labuan, via Brunei, taking four days and nights by the sea beach. There were no roads, only dirt tracks - and no street lamps. Everyone was warned to carry a hurricane lamp at night, under penalty of arrest. There were not even rickshaws, and when one of the Europeans rode on a bicycle, the whole kampong turned out in amazement to watch him.
Miri settlement had been wrested from the jungle - and was only held on sufferance from it. Wild pigs used to run around, even under the bungalows, looking for tit bits. Leopards were not unknown. The place was cockroach infested - they got into your clothes, they ate the gum of your envelopes. You were obliged to share your bathroom with out-sized centipedes and spiders. Rats swarmed at nights. And the favorite sport of the monkeys was to hurl coconuts at cook boys and crockery alike.
Dysentry and malaria were common hazards. The only doctor was on Labuan Island. A visit to the surgery meant a 120 mile journey along the coast, or a chance call by one of the paddle steamers. It could mean a wait of 10 days for professional medical attention. A small First Aid kit was kept in camp with medicine for coughs, cholera and colds. The great stand by was castor oil - administered alike to the wants of the labor force be it 'susah hati' (heart burn), 'sakit perut' (stomach ache) or 'sakit kaki' (leg pain).
Later, the first general hospital was built on the site of the present Number 2 slipway. If the Medical Officer got ill himself, it was not uncommon for the General Manager to roll up his sleeves and assist the dresser in charge to treat the ailments of the workers.
Operationally, those first Shell men setting an oil camp in a remote location, were presented with innumerable problems of a kind we have long since forgotten. All the necessary drilling equipment and supplies, for instance, had to be manhandled to the site. Heavy machinery had to be unloaded at sea, from ocean steamers into small boats capable of negotiating the treacherous bar at the mouth of the Miri River. There was no Government launch to assist the landing. Equipment and men travelled in 'perahus' or open 50-ton wooden tongkangs propelled by 8-12 long poles. If the steamer arrived at night, they had to arouse the kampong (village) in order to man these.
They quickly discovered that the 'Singkeys' or coolies tended to get sea sick at the slightest swell. Their unloading methods were crude and it was not unusual for the oil technologists to lend hand as stevedores.
It is all the more remarkable, therefore, that despite the initial shortage of labor, the absence of wharf, and without benefit even of a crane, items weighing up to 5 tons were got ashore. The largest single unit was a boiler. To land it, they resorted to the stratagem of turning the 50-ton wooden boat on its side and rolling the boiler out on poles.
And so the Miri field got under way. By the end of 1911, production had reached 260 tons.
Source & excerpts : The Miri Story
The Civic Center at moment of completion.
Completed in the late 1980s, Miri Civic Center functions as an exhibition foyer and amphitheater on the ground floor, holds the Miri Public Library on the second floor, and is a multi-purpose hall for various social functions such as wedding parties, concerts, large conferences etc. The seating capacity allows up to a thousand dining tables.
Its design is reminiscent of an oil-rig platform when view from ground level, with four huge pillars supporting the upper floors rising from water features at the base. When viewed directly from from the air, it has a shape of an octagonal star. The pillars are white in color and the upper floors are covered in blue-tinted glass windows. It makes for a recognizable landmark near the City Fan.
The Civic Center connects to the first phase of the City Fan, a walkway that connects to the open air amphitheater at the center of Miri City Fan.