KOTA KINABALU: Malaysia can avoid losing out to Thailand’s one-trillion-baht southern land bridge project by making Sabah the country’s primary shipping and logistic hub, says former Cabinet minister Datuk Darell Leiking.
This could be done by designating the northern Kudat district as the new shipping transit point and international trade hub for the country, said the former international trade and industry minister.
Leiking said the completion of the land bridge project might reduce Malaysia’s competitiveness in the global economy.
“If Thailand succeeds with the project and opens for operation in 2030, it will become the Suez Canal of Asia.
“Port Klang or Tanjung Pelepas would no longer enjoy the shipping route monopoly they currently do,” he said in a statement on Friday.
On Tuesday, Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, who was in California, told investors that the land bridge project could reduce shipping times and that the route was a “cheaper, faster and safer” alternative to the Malacca Strait.
Leiking voiced concerns that the project could lead to higher costs of imported goods from China, Japan, Vietnam or South Korea as Malaysia would no longer serve as the primary transit point for these countries.
To pre-empt this, he said Kudat could be made the new transit point.
“Kudat is much closer to Thailand and located right in the middle of the Asean region.
“Shipping liners can transit in Kudat either to drop off or load their cargo for Malaysia before traversing to the land bridge,” he said.
Leiking said that Sarawakian shipping liners could then proceed to deliver the goods all over Malaysia.
“I believe this can prevent imported goods from China or Korea into Malaysia from soaring in costs,” he said.
Leiking said one of the world’s busiest straits, the Makassar-Lombok Strait, is also located in Sabah’s east coast.
“It is high time the Federal Government took full advantage of the economic opportunities presented by this strait,” he said.