Sunday, June 13

‘Doing away with cabotage policy will reduce shipping costs’


MIRI: The abolition of the cabotage policy will lower shipping costs and do away with double handling and stimulate more trade and commerce activities, besides attracting international shipping lines to Sarawak ports.

Sarawak’s exports and imports can go directly to and from the respective ports, while more efficient shipping logistics will emerge due to shorter shipping time.

Assistant Minister for Land and Air Transportation and Safety Datuk Lee Kim Shin said these would be the impact on Sarawak should the proposal to abolish the cabotage policy by Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg be implemented.

“International shipping lines will look at our ports, especially the Samalaju, Bintulu and Kuching ports, as their new shipping routes,” he added.

On a related matter, Lee said the deepening of the Baram rivermouth to 7m and construction of a channel would make Miri another major port in the state.

“This will help the shipbuilding industry to grow and flourish as currently, they build many foreign vessels and ships at the Kuala Baram shipyards.”

Lee also hoped that the Miri Port’s Baram rivermouth channel project could be implemented soon as it would contribute to the economic growth of the state.

“The shipbuilders are unable to build bigger vessels and ships due to the shallow rivermouth. As a result, they have lost orders for bigger ships to be built. This is a loss to Sarawak’s economy,” he said.

Meanwhile, Piasau assemblyman Datuk Sebastian Ting welcomed the chief minister’s proposal to abolish the cabotage policy for Sarawak and Sabah.

“We in Sarawak are thankful to the chief minister in taking this up – this is an unfair policy to us as we have to pay extra shipping costs.

“The policy has been around for 54 years and is a thing of the past. There is need to be fair to all parties and there should not be a ‘one-size-fits-all’ policy, as there are peculiarities in East Malaysia,” he added.

Ting had previously raised the issue of cabotage in the State Legislative Assembly, calling for it to be abolished.

Abang Johari, in the ‘Bersama Ketua Menteri Sarawak’ show aired live on TV1 from RTM Kuching on Monday night, said the Sarawak government had proposed to the federal government to abolish the cabotage policy, which requires all goods to enter the state through Port Klang.

He and the state cabinet viewed the repeal of the policy as among the ways to lessen the price of goods in Sarawak, and also a catalyst for the development of the state’s basic infrastructure due to cheaper construction materials that are imported and sent via Port Klang.

The programme moderated by Sayed Munawar Sayed Mohd Mustar was held to celebrate Abang Johari’s 100th day as Sarawak’s chief minister and discussed the significant initiatives implemented.