WHEN Datuk Ir Lawrence Low Ah Keong, 48, was appointed the new chairman of the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) three months ago, port players who knew him brightened up.
One was Lai Ah Chek, director of Longmaju Sdn Bhd that brings Chinese investors into Malaysia’s ports and vise versa.
“Lawrence can bring in business for Port Klang. His background as a businessman and past experience in government, plus his strong network in China, will help him monetise and restrategise PKFZ,” says Lai, also a logistics expert who has worked in China for Sime Darby Bhd for years.
PKFZ, Malaysia’s only economic free trade zone, is located next to Port Klang (West Port and North Port). It is to help generate cargo for Port Klang.
“I have confidence in Lawrence’s leadership. He has the team with him and knows the landscape well,” Lai tells Sunday Star.
Low was political secretary to Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong, when the latter was Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department under the Barisan Nasional government. Dr Wee is now the Transport Minister.
During a 10-day official trip to China representing Dr Wee to promote Malaysia’s “halal” investment opportunities, Low showed that he was able to articulate well in Mandarin and impressed Chinese officials with his speeches, according to journalists in the delegation.
Lai reckons Low has a “good team” after he became PKFZ chairman. “I met his general manager and new CEO. I am sure they can run the show as professionals after Lawrence brings in the business.”
In June, Loh Chee Can – a director of Star Media Group – was appointed as chief executive officer. Loh is a trained marine engineer with vast working experience in Singapore and Malaysia’s shipping as well as port-related companies.
PKFZ’s new general manager is Safuan Basir, an experienced accountant who has worked in the oil and gas, ICT, telecommunications, logistics and transportation sectors.
Low, who is on a two-year contract until 2022, replaces Chan Leng Wai who stepped down from the top PKFZ post in April after the fall of the previous government.
PKFZ is a 1,000-acre area in Pulau Indah, Port Klang, of which 950 acres are designated for free zone activities while the remaining 50 acres are for commercial activities. Recently, all land plots and commercial units have been taken up by investors.
A businessman since 2004 and an MCA politician since 1997, Low acknowledges that the appointment is challenging.
“This is a challenging time as the economy has slowed and industries are affected. However, I pledge to do my best in this role,” said Low, also an MCA central committee member, when he was given the appointment.
Hailing from Kuala Selangor, the civil engineering graduate from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia also possesses a masters in business administration degree from Charles Sturt University in Australia.
As the new chairman, Low has armed himself with ideas. He has come out with short- and long-term expansion and development plans for PKFZ. His idea of building a new PKFZ as part of the expansion plan is well-received by Dr Wee, who briefly mentioned this at a recent press conference after visiting Port Klang and meeting with industry players.
The friendly Low, who often wears a smile, sees his strength in networking. He has strong political, business and media contacts.
The fact that potential investors still come to PKFZ to look around, despite being told that all industrial plots have been occupied, stands testimony to his strong network and hardwork.