LOWER PRICES WITH CABOTAGE EXEMPTION
SABAH, Sarawak and Labuan’s exemption from the shipping policy from June 1 will have a positive impact on industries and the cost of living in the three territories. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, in announcing the good news, says ‘rising prices o
APROTECTIONIST policy, often claimed to be the reason why prices of goods are higher in Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan, will be removed next month.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak yesterday announced that the cabotage policy would be exempted on cargo vessels from ports in Peninsular Malaysia to the two states and the Federal Territory from June 1.
“Rising prices of goods will no longer be an issue, as we have heard what the people have been calling for,” he said during the Ekspresi Negaraku programme here.
“The decision was made based on recommendations made by the state governments and Barisan Nasional leaders,” he said, stressing that “the government listens to the people”.
The exemption, however, does not cover ships operating between Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan, Najib said.
In response to the announcement, Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Abang Openg said it would have farreaching impact in addressing the higher cost of living in the state.
The exemption would reduce the prices of goods in Sarawak and eliminate the double-handling process, Abang Johari said.
“Hopefully, it will help us further lessen the burden on consumers and address the rising cost of living.”
Some parties, he said, were unhappy with the previous policies as they increased the shipping cost due to double-handling.
“So, we are glad the prime minister announced this decision,” he said after a pre-state legislative assembly (Pre-DUN) meeting, held at Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu’s headquarters in Kuching.
Sabah Special Tasks Minister Datuk Teo Chee Kang said for discrepancies in prices of goods to be resolved, it was vital to upgrade and promote the Sapangar Bay Container Port in Kota Kinabalu into a regional transhipment hub.
“The Federal Government has approved RM1.027 billion for the upgrading of Sapangar Port,” he said, adding that more foreign and local ships could be attracted if the volume of cargo could be increased.
“If the ships are leaving our ports with empty or half empty containers, I cannot see how freight charges would be reduced.”
Teo said freight charges may also be lowered in the long-run because with the exemption, local shiplines would compete with foreign vessels in domestic routes.
This would likely happen as foreign vessels would be permitted to pick up cargo from Sabah and ship them to other ports in the country with the exemption, he said.
Teo said the decision honoured the Inter-Governmental Report that was prepared before the formation of Malaysia as the Cabotage Policy was seen as an interference in the shipping policy in Sabah when it was implemented some 30 years ago.
The policy has been a key issue in the two states, with many describing it as unfair and discriminatory as it had contributed to the increase in prices of goods transported by sea.
Business operators from Sabah and Sarawak had claimed that it not only affected exporters, but also increased the cost of importing products.
The Sabah and Sarawak governments had been in discussions with the Federal Government to review the controversial policy, which had, over the years, caused discord between shippers in Sabah and Sarawak and local shipowners. Page 1 pic: A vessel docked at the Sapangar Bay Container Port in Kota Kinabalu.