Labuan ferries operator wants Brunei to explain

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LABUAN: ISRO Shipping Company here demanded an answer and solution from Brunei for barring its three ferries from docking at Muara Port.

Speaking at a press conference at the Labuan International Ferry Terminal jetty here yesterday, ISRO general manager Kamaruzaman Tambis said two separate meetings were over the issue last year.

“The first meeting was between Malaysia Marine Department and Brunei Marine Department and then another meeting was between Malaysia Transport Ministry and Brunei Communication Ministry, but Brunei has yet to give the right answer to us till today.

“We have compromised on the matter for a year, but instead of giving us the right answer, Brunei completely barred our ferries to dock at its port.

“Brunei issued us a letter through our agent in Brunei – Taiwah Travel Services Sdn Bhd – which took effect on January 1, this year.

“Before Brunei issued the letter, it only allowed us to carry passengers from Labuan to Brunei and ordered us to return without passengers for a year last year where we suffered losses of about RM2 million,” he said.

Kamaruzaman said if Brunei did not want to allow the company which represents Malaysia, to ferry passengers from Brunei to Labuan, then the Malaysian government should act the same to be fair to us.

Brunei’s reason for issuing the letter of termination of the services of the three ferries, Duta Muhibbah 2, Duta Muhibbah 3 and Rajawali, to the country was because they did not have valid safety certificates.

“Brunei does not have any right to not recognize the Ship Classification Malaysia Certificate issued by our country where ships with such certificate can dock at any other countries including Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, among others.

“If Brunei says that our ships need to have certificates under International Association of Classification Societies (IACS), those are for ships weighing more than 500 tonnes or GRT whereas ours are less than 500 GRT.

“It shows that Brunei does not respect the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) where our ferries can dock at any port in the world.

“I hope that our government will interfere in this matter or we will continue to suffer huge losses,” Kamaruzaman said.

He added that the current problem had caused difficulties to passengers travelling from Labuan to Brunei and vice versa.

“I was made to understand that our embassy in Brunei was trying to help us solve this matter,” Kamaruzaman said, adding that they would continue to operate their three ferries to Brunei despite facing the current prohibition.

Meanwhile, the skipper of Duta Muhibbah 3, Captain Lakim Hajirul, said they did not encounter any problem docking the ferry at Muara yesterday.

But last Sunday they were held up for half an hour before being eventually allowed to anchor the ferry at the Muara Port.

“As usual we carry passengers from here to Brunei and return without passengers,” said Lakim who steered the ferry at 9am from here to Brunei and returned around noon.

Also present at the press conference was the owner of ISRO Shipping Sdn Bhd, Datuk Isli Siput.