KOTA KINABALU: The State Trade and Industrial Ministry has set a target to boost Sepanggar Bay Container Port (SBCP) handling volume capacity to 500,000 containers annually and gradually to 1 million to become a transshipment hub for this region.
Deputy Chief Minister, Datuk Seri Wilfred Madius Tangau said the SBCP’s present handling capacity of 280,000 containers annually was not attractive enough for international shipping lines despite the relaxation of the Cabotage policy.
In this respect, he said the State Government must chase the Federal allocation totaling RM1.08 billion that has been approved to upgrade the SBCP facilities immediately.
He said port upgrades may take up to two years to complete once the funds are available.
There was no specific time frame set to achieve the target but he reckoned that all the necessary facilities have to be completed first before the next step can be taken.
Tangau underlined this as one of the most important objectives for the minister while delivering his keynote address to officers and personnel of the Trade and Industrial Ministry at Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort and Spa here today.
Also on hand were Assistant Ministers, Azhar Matussin and Ben Chong as well as newly appointed permanent secretary, Madiyem Layapan.
He also said the ministry also need to assist in incubating local entrepreneurs with high volume productions capability in order to fill up the containers at the SBCP and to be shipped out to international market.
He said after two years since the partial liberalisation of the Cabotage policy, still no international shipping lines want to call to the port here, a scenario much similar when the policy was fully enforced.
Under the partial liberalisation of the policy, local or international shipping firms with a written permit were allowed to call at Sabah ports to drop goods.
“But they are not coming because there is no business for them to come here. There is not enough containers (at SBCP),” he said.
Towards this end, he said programmes were now being formulated by his ministry to incentivise the small-and-medium-sized enterprises to increase output.
“We need to identify their needs because at the moment they cannot even fill up one container (of products for export),” he said.
“We want them to ship out our local products directly to the market,” he said.
Tangau said the industry’s contribution to the Sabah gross domestic product (GDP) at present stood only at 7.5 per cent and “we need to hit around 30 per cent to be able to achieve a progressing economy.”
The ministry was also giving emphasis on the deep-sea port in Palm Oil Industrial Cluster (POIC) Lahad Datu, which he said not only needs to be commissioned but must be operated by POIC itself.
Another important aspect, he said was improvement of the electricity and water supplies as well as the rate charged to consumers
According to him, the Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB) had briefed all Members of Parliament before that the production cost of 1kilowatt of electricity is 40 sen but it was being sold to consumers at a lower 34 sen.
In Sabah, he said the utility company was making a lost and had to be subsidised by Federal unlike in Sarawak where electricity rate is only 9 sen per kilowatt.
Perhaps, suggestion should be made to generate electricity from hydro, he said, adding but whenever there is an idea involving building a dam it would be met with strong objections just like previously when the Babagon Dam was being constructed.
Tangau also reiterated that as far as the ministry is concerned the ban on log export must be permanent as the State government embarked on its mission to fully support the timber downstream sector.
“For us in the ministry there is no two-way about it. The policy must be permanent. Only when we have a policy that is to last then we will have serious investors coming in,” he said.
On the recently launched “One District One Small Industry” programme, Tangau said the ministry was really serious in its implementation despite criticism from detractors claiming it as “old news” that had already been done before.
“Today we will have the first meeting involving four permanent secretaries with all the municipal council presidents and KK Mayor to discuss and formulate a detail mapping of the programme,” he said.-SabahNewsToday