KOTA KINABALU: The Sepangar Bay Container Port here together with Port Klang in Selangor are earmarked to be the key ports that will turn Malaysia into an Asean logistics hub, said Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.
He said the Cabinet had recently discussed steps to turn the country into a logistics hub for Asean with Sepangar port playing the role in the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).
“Sabah is uniquely and strategically positioned within the Asean sub-region of BIMP-EAGA. The development of this location is highly dependent on the creation of inter-regional transport links that will make Asean the eighth largest economy in the world," Liow said in his welcoming remarks at the Sabah Ports Forum opened by Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman Thursday.
He said Sabah is in advantageous position as a staging hub for product distribution within Asean as sea routes from South America and Australia to China favour the state due to its geo-strategic location.
However, he said Sabah needs to unlock its potential to become a major player in the maritime and logistics sectors.
“Issues such as the lack of manufacturing and downstream processing activities that have led to insufficient container volume need to be addressed," he said in explaining that currently, the volume of exports was only half of imports brought in by ships.
"Ships have to return half empty and this affects freight rates," he added.
He said the current situation gives no compelling reason for main line operators to call at Sabah ports, which has led to containers being transshipped at Port Klang or other peninsula ports.
Liow said the Federal Government realises the importance of Sabah as a maritime hub and had approved RM1.027bil under the 11th Malaysia Plan for the expansion of Sepangar Bay Container Port to become a transshipment hub.
“It will be able to boost connectivity to international markets, generate higher volume of cargo and attract shipping lines to call at Sepangar port as a load centre supported by other ports such as Sandakan, Lahad Datu and Tawau.
"By leveraging on the port’s strategic location along the main shipping routes of East Asian sea trade and centre of BIMP-EAGA region, the supply-driven approach is anticipated to attract more international main line operators to Sepangar as a hub,” said Liow, who also visited the Sepangar Bay Container Port.