Based on the present cabotage policies, foreign vessels are allowed to enter Malaysian waters and they only need to apply for the electronic domestic shipping licences (eDSL) upon entering, says Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong.
The Transport Minister said as such, it was not true to claim that the national cabotage policy had banned foreign vessels from operating in Malaysian waters to repair undersea cables.
“The eDSL only takes three days to approve, unlike 45 days previously,” he said during his winding-up speech in Parliament yesterday.
Dr Wee was responding to Anthony Loke (PH-Seremban) who interjected and stated that cabotage exemption was still needed because there were no ships capable of repairing undersea cables in the country.
The minister also reminded Loke that Indonesia also implemented a very strict cabotage policy.
“There are two Malaysian companies and when they are operating in Indonesia, they are not allowed to be the main shareholder and can only own 49% of shares.
“This is because Indonesia has a cabotage policy that is more stringent than ours,” he said.
Dr Wee said under the present cabotage policies, 10 ships were given eDSL within three days.
“Some are saying Malaysia bans foreign vessels. This is untrue because we had allowed Singaporean vessels such as the Asean Explorer and the Asean Restorer to enter,” he said.
Nevertheless, he said the national cabotage policy would be thoroughly discussed in the Cabinet soon.
“I’m confident any decision will be a balance between digital sovereignty and security,” he said, adding that the government would take into account the views of the National Security Council (NSC), Home Ministry, Communications and Multimedia Ministry, Finance Ministry, Economic Planning Unit and relevant stakeholders.
The reimposition of the cabotage policy for submarine cable repair works has been a contentious issue with critics arguing that it could deter foreign investments and cause giant tech companies to exclude Malaysia from cable projects aimed at boosting regional Internet connectivity.
However, the move was defended by the Malaysian Shipowners’ Association, which deemed it necessary to safeguard national sovereignty and the interests of the national shipping industry.
Introduced in January 1980, the cabotage policy for cable repair works was revoked by the former Pakatan Harapan government in April 2019.
The cabotage policy was reintroduced by Dr Wee on Nov 16 last year.
On another matter, Dr Wee said the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (Miros) would study the effectiveness of the measures against driving under the influence of intoxicating substances following amendments to the law.
“The Transport Ministry has requested Miros to conduct a study on the effectiveness on all intervention measures to address the issue in light of enforcement of the law for almost a year now,” he said in his ministerial reply on the motion of thanks on the Royal Address.
He said amendments to the Road Transport Act to increase the penalties for such offences were passed by Dewan Rakyat in Aug 26 last year and came into force on Oct 23 the same year.
Among the amendments include increasing the jail term up to 10 years and fines up to RM50,000 for those convicted for dangerous or reckless driving resulting in death.
Dr Wee told lawmakers that a special committee was set up last September to ensure participation of local non-Bumiputra and Bumiputra contractors in the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project.
He said the participation of the local contractors in the ECRL project would be based on the conditions laid out under the Engineering, Procurement, Construction and Commissioning agreement.