KUALA LUMPUR, May 20 — Transport Minister Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong has reportedly denied a claim by the Indonesian Consulate-General in Sabah, explaining that there are no restrictions applied to maritime trade between Malaysia and Indonesia using small vessels.

Wee said that the issue of non-convention vessels (NCV) from Indonesia has been mistakenly attributed by the republic's economic affair counsellor Muhammad Muhsinin Dolisada to Malaysia's cabotage policy.

"It is regrettable that the Indonesian consulate-general in Sabah has caused some confusion,” he was quoted saying by English daily The Star.

Sabah's Daily Express had quoted Muhammad Muhsinin alleging the cabotage policy of hampering the trade between Sabah and Indonesia.

Wee noted the report, which was later reproduced by other 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 recognized under the International Maritime Organisation's (IMO) regulations. Under cabotage limits, IMO restricts trade to be conducted with steel hull vessels”.

He explained that Muhammad's comments related to trade "currently done with wooden hull ships and smaller vessels" which weigh less than 15 tonnes, which is therefore not subject to the cabotage policy in Malaysia which requires all vessels involved in domestic shipping to have a valid Domestic Shipping License.

"Instead of the cabotage policy, this issue concerns the recognition of trading certificates for NCVs (typically vessels below 500 gross tonnages) from Indonesia mostly used to conduct barter trade," added Wee.

He further explained the cabotage policy is regulated under the Merchant Shipping Ordinance 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 a nett weight of under 15 tonnes, licensed under Section 475 MSO 1952 (boat license); licensed under MSO 1960 (Sabah) and (Sarawak); and owned or leased by the Malaysian government, state government, or port authority.

Wee said 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, and NCVs from Indonesia which possess necessary safety certificates will have safe passage to Malaysia without facing any issues with the Marine Department.

This is practised throughout Malaysia in managing barter trade on vessels from Indonesia, including Sabah and Sarawak, he said.

Wee also stressed that there is no issue to continue the small vessel trade between the two countries.

"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," he reportedly said.