DID you know that the first solar-powered boat in Malaysia was mostly built by local university students?

In 2017, Kasi Chan La was built and it was mostly through the efforts of students from the Universiti Kuala Lumpur Malaysian Institute of Marine Engineering Technology (UniKL MIMET), and local colleges in Langkawi.

These students were given the opportunity through an internship programme offered by Tropical Charters, a Langkawi-based cruise and tour company.

Within eight months, the crew at Tropical Charters built Kasi Chan La almost entirely from scratch, having only a hull to start with. The boat, which performs cruises, was named Kasi Chan La, because the students were given a “chan(ce)” to build it.

As part of Tropical Charters’ recent corporate social responsibility programme, it has developed a policy to accept local university students as interns, and as such, 95% of its staff are made up of locals. Most of the interns are students who study engineering or ship design.

Rather than having its seven boats fixed elsewhere, its in-house engineering team, who mainly comprises student interns, carry out maintenance on the boats such as tightening screws, checking batteries and fixing problems.

“We have always maintained that this is a local industry, and we have capable locals,” said 56-year-old Chandran Ramanathan, the general manager of Tropical Charters.

“Every year, we take students in from universities. They come in here and do a hands-on internship for six months,” he added.

Under the supervision of an engineer, the interns and crew members managed to build ‘Kasi-Chan-La’, Malaysia’s first ever solar-powered boat.

As a general manager, Chandran handles the recruiting and training of interns. He also makes sure that the boats run smoothly and customers are satisfied of the services provided.

“A to Z, everything really,” Chandran said about his role.

After learning about the internship programme at Tropical Charters through its website, UniKL student Muhammad Afiq Iman Mohammad Hamzah decided to become an intern there. He has interned for three months so far and believes that Tropical Charters is a commendable platform for an internship.

Throughout his internship, Iman learned a lot about ships and that has greatly helped him in his naval architecture and ship-building courses.

“We need to follow a routine maintenance every day and if there are any problems, we’ll have to stay back on the ship before we can set sail,” Iman shared.

“It’s been a very good experience,” he remarked.

Another intern, 22 year-old Amirul Haziq Haminudin, is also a UniKL student.

“The company grants us full access to each boat, so we can do things like enter the engine room and do maintenance all around,” said Amirul when asked how the internship programme provides an in-depth learning experience.

He has learned much from his internship so far and plans on using everything he has learned to work on his final year project at UniKL.

“I might come back. I like the freedom,” he said.

The freedom provided by Tropical Charters isn’t limited to an intern’s work on the boats, however.

“Go! That’s what it’s all about. It’s for you to make something out of yourself,” said Chandran, elaborating that the interns aren’t bound by any contracts and are able to freely move on, should better opportunities come along.

For the folks at Tropical Charters, a bright future awaits each of the interns.

“We give you the start. I don’t hold you down,” added Chandran.

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