KUCHING: Abolishing the cabotage policy will benefit Sarawak by enabling direct international shipping to and from the state instead of going through Port Klang.
Industrial and Entrepreneur Development, Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan said this would make it more convenient for local importers and exporters as well as reduce freight charges and shipping times.
“In the long term it’s good for Sarawak because there will be direct shipment from other countries.
“For example, if you import construction materials from China, that will come direct to us without having to stop at Port Klang. That is actually to our advantage,” he told reporters after announcing the third Sarawak Timber and SME Expo.
At the same time, he said, local exporters like timber players could ship their products directly from Kuching or Bintulu to international buyers.
“This will avoid double handling of goods and the shipping time will be shortened,” he added.
Last week, Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg called for a repeal of the cabotage policy, which generally allows only Malaysian-registered vessels to transport goods to Sarawak and Sabah.
He said it was time to abolish cabotage so that ships from overseas could come directly to Sarawak as the state now had established international trade as well as ports with containerisation facilities.
Awang Tengah also said abolishing the policy would not affect the state’s local shipping industry.
“International shipping is from one country to another but we still need local shipping operators to transport goods from Bintulu Port to Limbang, for example,” he said.
Resource Planning Assistant Minister Datuk Naroden Majais added that the policy meant that imported and exported goods had to be handled twice as they had to go through Port Klang.
“That means twice the cost and the extra cost makes our products less competitive as compared to single handling whereby the goods will go direct to their target group,” he said.