Revoking cabotage exemption doesn't prevent employment of foreign vessels, says Masa

KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama): The decision to revoke the cabotage exemption for foreign-flagged ships repairing undersea cables does not prevent the employment of foreign vessels, says the Malaysia Shipowners Association (Masa).

Its chairman Datuk Abdul Hak Md Amin (pic) said that it mainly means helping and enabling Malaysian companies to bring the cableships and technology back home to assist and boost the local industry as well as to stop unnecessary outflow of foreign exchange.

He said the latest move by Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong was important in building and developing the local industry as Malaysian companies have the expertise and ability to provide security and protection to the strategic assets in the country's waters.

"This is what we are trying to promote. Masa wants to protect the digital accessibility into Malaysia with local know-how to repair the cable and not relying 100 per cent on foreign companies. Foreign cableships can still work in Malaysian waters but need to comply with the domestic shipping licence exemption processes," he said.

The cabotage exemption for foreign vessels repairing undersea cables was given by former transport minister Anthony Loke and was requested by telecommunication companies such as TIME dotCom Bhd and Telekom Malaysia Bhd.

It was supported by the Communications and Multimedia Ministry and aimed to speed up maintenance work as required.

The Transport Ministry has confirmed that it received memoranda from tech giants namely Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Malaysia Internet Exchange claiming Dr Wee’s decision would hamper Malaysia’s Internet infrastructure and they had turned to Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin for intervention.

Hak emphasised the revocation was the right measure as Malaysia's neighbouring countries had enforced the cabotage policy very strictly for their long-term benefits.

"If the telcos feel that developing Malaysians is not important, then let's open up everything. Why the need to have local companies like Maxis, TIME or Celcom? Why don't they allow Singtel, Telkomtelstra, AT&T and the like to come in?" he said.

He said claims by certain parties that a severed cable could disable the whole country's data system is not substantiated as during a previous cable outage, Malaysia did not experience data shutdown.

"There are a total of 19 submarine cables with two new cables underway, so when a cable is cut, traffic is rerouted.

"There are two maintenance authorities in this region - South East Asia and Indian Ocean Cable Maintenance Agreement and Asia Pacific Marine Maintenance Service Agreement. Masa encourages competition between them and at same time encourages its members to bring its cableships to flag in Malaysia," he said.

He said Masa supports the national cabotage policy, “which should be implemented completely and not exempting certain areas where in fact the previous exemption only excluded the cable system that landed into Malaysia but not those cable systems in transit”.

"There are between 10,000km and 15,000km of domestic and international cables connecting Malaysia. So much so that we need more local cable ships to support these cables," he added.- Bernama

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