Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai (pic) said he would discuss the matter with shipping lines and transporters to see what further steps could be done to liberalise the policy.
(The policy had been a bone of contention among Sabah businessmen and political parties who wanted the federal government to scrap it as it contributed to higher cost of shipping to ports in Sabah.)
"I am very concerned about this, we want to see ways we can help reduce the cost of goods in the state,’’ Liow told reporters after officiating the Sabah MCA annual general meeting on Sunday.
He said the policy to restrict domestic shipping to local shipping lines was a sovereign right of any nation provided under the Merchant Shipping Ordinance 1952. "It cannot be repealed,’’ he said.
Liow explained that ordinance allowed the minister to take steps to liberalise or make exceptions to the cabotage policy.
Liow said some liberalisation had already been in place but the policy was not the real reason for higher costs of goods in Sabah compared to the peninsular.
He said inefficiency of port operations, higher land transport costs and also smaller volume of trade made costs higher.
Liow said his ministry would work with the state government to improve efficiency at the Sepangar container port.
Liow said the ministry would talk to Air Asia on the move from the low cost Terminal 2 to the main Terminal 1 of the Kota Kinabalu International Airport by year end.