‘Cabotage exemption policy repeal won’t affect sea cable project’

PETALING JAYA: The revocation of the cabotage policy exemption will not affect maritime data cable projects passing through Malaysia’s territorial waters, says Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong.

The Transport Minister said the current requirement for foreign vessels to obtain a Domestic Shipping Licence (DSL) to carry out marine cable repair work does not present any barrier to any marine-based cable project.

He reiterated that Malaysia had never been a proposed landing site for Apricot, owned by a consortium led by Japan’s NTT Limited, since its first announcement in 2017.

“The Apricot cable system has a planned length of 12,000km, with a capacity of more than 190 TeraBytes Per Second (Tbps). It will connect Japan to Singapore, with branches to Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan and the United States,” he wrote on Facebook yesterday in response to an article in a local daily on Monday that claimed Malaysia had missed out on another Internet cable project as it has “not resolved its cabotage policy”.

To this, Dr Wee said on Aug 16 last year, NTT announced that Apricot will form part of a network of cable systems with the Japan telecommunications giant’s existing Asia Submarine-cable Express (ASE), which has a landing site in Mersing, Johor.

Dr Wee added that with the Asia Pacific Gateway (APG) network having a landing station in Kuantan, and the Pacific Crossing-1 (PC-1), JUPITER and upcoming MIST cable systems (Myanmar/Malaysia–India-Singapore-Thailand cable system) having a landing site in Morib, Selangor, Malaysia is in the centre of the undersea cable traffic network.

“As stated in the article itself, the Chinese company, China Mobile International Limited (CMI) has issued a statement dated May 12, stating the undersea Internet cable system, South-East Asia Hainan-Hong Kong Express Cable System (SEA-H2X), will connect Hong Kong, Hainan, the Philippines, Thailand, East Malaysia and Singapore. It also has recommendations to be expanded to Vietnam, Cambodia, Sabah, Sarawak and Indonesia.

“Excerpts from the CMI statement indirectly negated the news article’s insinuation that Malaysia’s cabotage policy had something to do with it (cables bypassing the country), although the Transport Ministry has explained about its cabotage exemption for foreign ships since November 2020,” he said.Dr Wee said if the revocation of the cabotage policy exemption did in fact jeopardise the project, the consortium headed by CMI would not have made the announcement.

At present, the national cabotage policy does not ban foreign-flagged vessels from repairing undersea cables in Malaysian waters. Foreign vessels can enter Malaysian waters and need only apply for electronic domestic shipping licence before they can start work, a process that takes three days before approval.

Introduced in January 1980, the former Pakatan Harapan government revoked the cabotage policy for cable repair works in April 2019, which exempted submarine cable maintenance vessels from applying for domestic shipping licence.

However, the cabotage policy was reintroduced by the Transport Ministry on Nov 16, 2020.

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