Maximise impact of cabotage abolition by upgrading access channels to ports, suggests Lee

MIRI: The federal government can add more value to the recently-announced abolition of cabotage policy by allocating funds slated for improving the access channels to the major ports across Sarawak and Sabah.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced on Sunday that the policy, which had been limiting the shipment of goods from Peninsular Malaysia to Sarawak and Sabah to only Malaysian flagships, would cease effective June 1.

On this, Assistant Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Lee Kim Shin said the move was welcomed by the majority of the people, who would look forward to seeing lower costs of goods.

He also believed that this would promote direct foreign shipping and commercial activities between the state and its global trading partners, in view of the expected reduction in shipping costs – both in import and export operations.

Nevertheless, Lee pointed out that the emerging focus would be on improving the access channels to the state ports, particularly Miri Port, so that larger vessels could come in to berth and thus, maximise the impact from the abolition of the cabotage policy.

According to him, one of the top priorities is the construction of a ‘trained bund’ channel and dredging it down to 8m for Miri Port.

“This will help stimulate the economic growth of Miri and its hinterland including areas in Baram. Firstly, it will enable bigger ships to sail directly to Miri – consequently helping to reduce the cost of goods and thus, lower the cost of living,” he said, adding that it would also reduce shipping costs for export commodities such as palm oil and timber products via this port.

Lee said there is a huge potential for the shipbuilding industry to grow larger than it is now, should there be better access channels.

“This can be the catalyst for the shipbuilding industry to flourish, in that the players can build, carry out repair works on and provide services for more big ships.

“The shipyards in Miri have been receiving orders from other countries for the construction of vessels for oil and gas industry, as well as other high-tech boats – including those for the foreign navy forces,” he said.

Lee also envisioned the provision of an oil terminal storage, including for bulk crude palm oil, as well as berthing of cruise ships at Miri Port, bringing in visitors to boost the city’s tourism industry.

Additionally, Lee – previously assistant minister for land and air and safety, and assistant minister for tourism before the state cabinet reshuffle last Saturday – expressed his appreciation to Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg for pushing for the abolition of the cabotage policy.

Source: The Borneo Post

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