Cabotage Policy misunderstood – Kong

KOTA KINABALU: The Transport Ministry has never stopped foreign ships to directly berth at Sabah ports.

Instead, its minister Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha stressed that foreign ships are welcome to berth at the ports in the state with no restrictions.

Speaking to reporters after inspecting the progress on the upgrading works of the Kota Kinabalu International Airport here yesterday, he added that there had been a lot of misconception on the Cabotage Policy, with many blaming it as the cause of the higher prices of goods in Sabah.

Various quarters in Sabah including the Federation of Sabah Manufacturers (FSM) had been calling for the scrapping of the policy, which was implemented since 1980.

Under the policy, domestic trades between any two ports in the country can only be served by Malaysian-owned shipping companies. Business operators stressed that it does not only affect exporters but also increased the costs of importing products into Sabah.

“The government actually practises very liberal Cabotage Policy in the country; it is a  policy adopted by almost every country in the world, and Malaysia is no exception.

“But people must understand what is Cabotage Policy, and when and where the ships can operate. There are misconceptions and misperception over the policy and issue,” he said.

Kong said the ministry never stopped any shipping companies to transport their goods directly to the ports in Sabah and vice versa.

“Any ships that want to bring goods to Sabah directly or want to take goods from Sabah directly to any country all over the world are  welcomed to do so, there is no restrictions. I have been explaining this to the people, but still I am asked the same question over and over again,” he said.

However, Kong stressed that at the end of the day, it was still a business decision.

“It is like operating an airline. If they decide to operate a direct flight to Kota Kinabalu (KK), they may do so. We never stop them, but whether they want to fly to KK, Sandakan or Tawau airports, it is a business decision they have to make.

“The same goes to ships. It is a business decision as they will have to weigh whether they can make money, whether there is enough load or not.”

On another development, Kong said the government would not meddle into the share swap between Malaysia Airlines (MAS) and Air Asia.

Disclosing that it was not even mentioned during the federal Cabinet meeting, he described it as also a ‘business decision’ which would allow both parties to be able to cooperate better and work on ways to reduce costs.

“Whether ultimately it is a good mechanism or not, I think it is for the two companies to determine,” he said.

Disclosing that Khazanah  Nasional, the investment holding arm of the government , is the major shareholder in MAS.

He said the ministry was just a regulator, adding: “Where they (MAS) want to fly and how many times, additional destinations and routes cancellation, is a business decision of an airline. But each time they stop or add any routes, they have to inform us.”

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