No restrictions on small vessel trade between Malaysia and Indonesia

PETALING JAYA: There are no restrictions to maritime trade between Malaysia and Indonesia using small vessels, says Transport Minister Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong (pic).

He was responding to the Indonesian Consulate-General’s comments that appeared in a Sabah daily, where the latter claimed that Malaysia’s cabotage policy governing trade vessels had hampered trade between Sabah and Indonesia.

Dr Wee clarified the Indonesian Consulate-General’s claims on the cabotage policy governing trade vessels between Malaysia and Indonesia were inaccurate.

“It is regrettable that economic affairs counsellor Muhammad Muhsinin Dolisada for the Indonesian consulate-general in Sabah has caused some confusion,” he said.

Dr Wee noted the Daily Express report, which was later reproduced by other online media, quoted Muhammad as saying that “trade conducted off Tawau’s waters and Kalimantan, Indonesia, was done with wooden hull ships and smaller vessels, which were not recognised under the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) regulations. Under cabotage limits, IMO restricts trade to be conducted with steel hull vessels”.

Dr Wee said Muhammad had mistakenly attributed the issue to Malaysia’s cabotage policy, when the matter should be about non-convention vessels (NCV) from Indonesia.

In a statement yesterday, Dr Wee also explained the cabotage policy is regulated under the Merchant Shipping Ordinance 1952 (MSO 1952), and not under IMO’s regulation as mentioned.

Subsection 65L (3) of the MSO 1952 provides an exemption from Section 65L to Malaysian Registered Vessels with nett weight of under 15 tonnes, licensed under Section 475 MSO 1952 (boat licence); licensed under MSO 1960 (Sabah) and (Sarawak); and owned/leased by Malaysian government, state government, or port authority.

“Secondly, Muhammad’s comments relate to trade ‘currently done with wooden hull ships and smaller vessels’ which weigh less than 15 tonnes, and are therefore not subject to the cabotage policy in Malaysia, which requires all vessels involved in domestic shipping to have a valid Domestic Shipping Licence (DSL).

“Instead of the cabotage policy, this issue concerns the recognition of trading certificates for NCVs (typically vessels below 500 gross tonnage) from Indonesia mostly used to conduct barter trade,” said Dr Wee.

He added that in December 2018, Malaysia together with eight other Asean member states (except Myanmar then) signed a memorandum on the Mutual Recognition of Certificates for NCVs.

Under this memorandum of understanding, Malaysia recognises NCV certificates as prescribed by the central maritime administration of the respective flag states.

The Marine Department allows the entry of NCVs from Indonesia to Malaysian ports on the condition that they comply with and possess the necessary safety certificates, he said.

This is practised throughout Malaysia in managing barter trading vessels from Indonesia, including Sabah and Sarawak.

“The Transport Ministry clarifies that there is no hindrance to continuing small vessel trade between Malaysia and Indonesia.

“We invite foreign missions and other stakeholders to dialogue with the Transport Ministry in order to understand related transport and logistics matters and policies under the ministry’s purview,” said Dr Wee.

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