SIBU: The Marine Department has exempted Sarawak from the Malaysia Shipping Notice (MSN 16/2020) where only double-hull double-bottom oil tankers are allowed to operate in the rivers and coastal waters.
State Transport Minister Datuk Lee Kim Shin said that this came about after his ministry sent an appeal letter on Nov 16 to seek an exemption on the double-hull double-bottom requirement for the state.
The Marine Department had on Aug 5 issued the notice to all relevant shipping parties in the country.
Lee said his ministry subsequently received complaints from the Sarawak Association of Maritime Industries (Samin) along with Sabah and Sarawak Shipowners Association (SSSA) that the notice has negative implications on Sarawak tanker shipowners and operators whose plying limits were confined to rivers and coastal waters.
These affected tankers are deployed for carrying diesel fuel from adjacent towns supplying the upper river communities for their usage, which is mainly for power generators in the longhouses, clinics, government stations or offices, schools and workers’ camps.
Diesel is also used for vehicles and machinery owned by plantations and timber companies.
About 99% or 280 oil tankers in the state are single-hull tankers.
With their appeal being accepted by the department, Lee expressed his appreciation to several parties.
"I would like to express my gratitude and appreciation to the Federal Government especially to Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong, his deputy Hasbi Habibollah, as well as to the ministry's secretary-general Datuk Isham Ishak for their understanding and support of my appeal," he said.
He also thanked the Marine Department for the exemption.
"I would like to urge industry players, in particular the members of Samin, SSSA and the related tanker owners and operators to appreciate and give their full support by strictly complying with the safety requirement and standard operating procedures set by the Marine Department at all times," he said.
Lee added that the amendment to the notice showed that the current government is willing to listen to the people’s concerns, particularly from the shipping community.
However, he said he would make another appeal to the department as the notice still applies to oil tankers in Bintulu Port.
Lee said there are six single-hull oil tankers that are taking one million litres of diesel a week from Bintulu Port for distribution to the northern region of the state that covers Miri, Limbang, Lawas and Marudi.
"If they are not allowed to go to Bintulu Port, then they have to go to Tanjung Manis Port (in the central region) which is very far away.
“If they are can't operate from Bintulu Port, it will affect the distribution of oil to the northern region," he said.