Wednesday, August 17

Local shipbuilders assured of support from state govt


Weeden (third right) in a discussion with Awang Tengah (fourth right) during a tour on board King Islander 2.

SIBU: The local shipbuilding and ship repairs (SBSR) industry has the potential to grow, in view of its long history and the positive growth seen in exports trade.

According to Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan Awang Tengah, this industry began in the state with the establishment of Brooke Dockyard in Kuching in 1912 by the White Rajah.

For Sibu, it started in the 1930s, he said.

“Today, Sarawak is capable of building various types of vessels such as offshore support vessels (OSVs), bulkers, barges, tugboats, and passenger boats.

“These vessels have reached international standards and are exported to Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Vietnam, Solomon Islands, Brunei, Papua New Guinea, the Middle East, the Americas and Australia,” he spoke after witnessing the symbolic handover of the US$8-million ‘King Islander 2’ by local shipbuilder Vitawani Shipbuilding Sdn Bhd to Tasmanian Ports Corporation (TasPorts), at a hotel here yesterday.

Adding on, Awang Tengah also assured the SBSR industry players here that the state government would continue supporting the industry so as to make it more competitive in the global market.

In this regard, he said upgrading works on the SBSR infrastructure located on a 250-acre land at Rantau Panjang Industrial Estate had commenced – with more initiatives by the government to follow suit.

Moreover, Awang Tengah – also the Industrial and Entrepreneur Development Minister – said SBSR should explore manufacturing solutions offered under ‘Industry 4.0’ for production and operations technology advancement towards cost competitiveness, especially within challenging environment.

“I believe our local SBSR industry has the potential to grow. They need to venture into other market segments

such as fisheries and marine tourism, or the leisure sectors,” he said.

Awang Tengah also said the state’s export value of vessels from January to November last year stood at RM320.5 million – in comparison, it was RM376.5 million for the whole of 2016.

Meanwhile the King Islander 2, which is 80m landing craft, will be shipped Australia to resolve freight issues affecting the King Island in Tasmania.

It is said to be the most sophisticated vessel ever built in Malaysia.

Representing Vitawani and TasPorts at the ceremony yesterday were respective managing director Toh Yu Seng and chief executive officer Paul Weeden.

In his remarks, Weeden said TasPorts was tasked by the Tasmanian government to establish a shipping service between Tasmania and King Island last year.

“We started by chartering a vessel and put it into trial in April last year. We knew that we would need a bigger, more sophisticated and more reliable ship; therefore, we started a global search to find a partner to provide exactly that ship.

“It did not take long for us to find Vitawani because of its very strong global reputation. We are able to negotiate a good contract for both parties and we’re convinced that we should be able to secure the vessel that we’re looking for,” he said.

According to Weeden, King Island is a small island located in the northwest of Tasmania and it is very important to the Tasmanian economy.

“King Island is one of biggest producers of beef and dairy products in Australia – and also in the world. The sea and air connection to the island is fundamental not only to King Island’s economic prosperity, but also to the growth of Tasmanian economy.”

The event also hosted Assistant Minister of Industries and Investment Malcolm Mussen Lamoh, Ministry of Industrial and Entrepreneur Development permanent secretary Datu Liaw Eng Soon, Sibu Resident Charles Siaw and Sibu Shipyard Association president Ngieng Ping Sing.