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KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 24 — The revocation of the cabotage exemption that previously allowed foreign vessels to carry out undersea communications cable repair works in Malaysian waters was not decided unilaterally, said Transport Minister Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong.
He said this in the Dewan Rakyat today while winding up the debate on the Supply Bill 2021 today.
Wee said the decision effective November 15 was conveyed to the Cabinet on November 13.
Prior to the decision, his ministry held discussions with the Communications and Multimedia Ministry, Marine Department, Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, Telekom Malaysia, TIME dotCom Bhd and Malaysian Shipowners Association (MASA), he said.
He said the move was taken to reduce outflow of foreign exchange in the form of freight or charter party payment and minimise the country’s dependence on foreign vessels by increasing the involvement of local shipping companies in the domestic service.
“It is also to build domestic shipping capacity and increase capability of the domestic service sector; Increase technical shipping expertise through human capital development among the locals; and to safeguard the country’s security and sovereignty by reducing operations of foreign vessels in Malaysian waters,” he said.
As an alternative measure, Wee said his ministry has developed the electronic domestic shipping licence (eDSL) to facilitate approval of applications by foreign vessels to carry out certain activities, upon confirmation from MASA that the works could not be executed by local vessels.
“The exemption of DSL can be processed more expeditiously and it will directly speed up works to repair undersea cables by foreign vessels if they are really needed,” he said.
Responding to Anthony Loke (DAP-Seremban) who had pointed out that the cabotage exemption was given while he was the Transport minister because local ships did not possess vessels of DP2 type that were needed for such works, Wee said the information has become “outdated”.
“There are already companies under MASA that can do the job because they have proven to conduct repairs whether in Indonesia, Singapore and so on, which I can confirm, as to the names and companies,” he said.
Wee is confident that undersea cable repair works could potentially be shortened by up to 10 days using local companies compared with 27 days previously. — Bernama